‘Next to Normal’ is anything but conventional

Gordon Wenzil Impressions Photographic Studio

Madison Weaver, Assistant News Editor

Mental illness and suburban life were the prevailing themes of the Theatre and Dance department’s pop-rock rendition of “Next to Normal.” The show ran from Feb. 24—27  in the Tustin Studio Theatre. Associate Professor of Theatre and Dance Dustyn Martincich served as the director of the musical. Alex Golden ’17 was in charge of the show’s music direction.

The “Next to Normal” cast starred Mukta Phatak ’18, Brendan Trybus ’18, Nick Talbot ’19, Midge Zuk ’19, Kyle Cohick ’20, Patrick Newhart ’18, Emma Miller ’20, and Franz Schauer ’20.

The show follows the lives of the Goodman family, detailing the mother’s struggle with bipolar disorder after the loss of her child and how the family attempts to cope with her illness. “Next to Normal” does not shy away from addressing important issues such as mental illness, grief, drug use, suicide, marriage and relationships, and the complexities of family relationships.

Golden was pleased by how the musical brings these problems into the spotlight.

“Mental illness is a topic constantly brushed under the rug in everyday life. For me, this show was a way to bring these discussions out into the open, and to show that these are things that ‘normal’ people deal with,” Golden said.

Golden discussed her unique experience in “Next to Normal,” as a student has never music directed a Mainstage theater event. After persistent discussions and proposals, Golden was able to act as the music director for the piece as her honors thesis and senior independent study.

“If even one person saw the show and came away from it saying, ‘Someone out there gets me. Maybe I’m not alone in this,’ I will have done my job,” Golden said.

For the last two showings, Golden filled in for Talbot as the character Dan, the father of the family, while reading from the script book.

“When I got the call on Sunday morning that I would be filling in, I knew there was no way I would be able to recreate [Talbot’s] nuanced, complex performance in a matter of hours … my greatest challenge was figuring out how to be there for my actors in an emotionally demanding show, stepping in for an actor they had become comfortable working with in that context, in a short period of time,” Golden said.

All of the actors on stage delivered powerful performances, exploring family life and mental illness through the relatable characters and pop rock songs throughout the show.

“[The actors] professionalism and trust in me carried the show. I could not have done it without them,” Golden said. “It is very rare, as a student music director, to walk into a rehearsal and feel nothing but support and trust from your cast every single day.”

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