Next to Normal

VOX Presents “Next to Normal”
January 15, 2014

Music by Tom Kitt, book and lyrics by Brian Yorkey

Performances Thursday–Saturday, January 16–18, 7 p.m., Alden Memorial

Admission is free. Doors open at 6:30, so come early to get a seat!

Director Giovanna Olson had no trouble attracting a cast for VOX’s C-Term show. “Approximately a week after I first mentioned wanting to bring Next to Normal to WPI, I had half a production team and 30 people lined up ready to audition,” she says.

“Next to Normal is a great way to open the door to discussion about mental health”

The Pulitzer Prize- winning contemporary rock musical will be presented this week by WPI’s VOX Musical Theatre. Next to Normal tells the story of a mother, Diane Goodman, who struggles with bipolar disorder and the effect that her illness has on her family. The show was nominated for 11  Tony Awards in 2009 and won three: Best Original Score, Best Orchestration, and Best Performance by a Leading Actress. It also won the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

Olson describes Next to Normal as being far more edgy and close to home than most musicals. “It’s a breathtaking ride that deals with issues very relevant to the lives of many. But don’t be fooled, it has brilliant hilarious moments.” In addition to the eclectic and challenging music, her passion to bring this piece of theatre to WPI was strengthened by her own experience watching friends and family deal with bipolar disorder, depression, and other mental illnesses.

In a unique collaboration, the VOX team reached out to Active Minds, a campus organization dedicated to raising awareness of mental health. Active Minds conducted a discussion with the cast on mental illnesses, coping methods, and treatments, to help cast members develop a better understanding of what the characters go through. There will be some unique publicity tactics as well. On the performance days, members of the cast and crew will be stationed in the Rubin Campus Center handing out pill bottles filled with candy to help promote the show.

Producer Greg Karp-Neufeld has high hopes for what the show can bring to the campus community. “Next to Normal takes you on a rollercoaster from start to finish between rock music, mental breakdowns, and plot twists,” he says. “With lighting effects that have rarely been seen before on the Alden stage and a complex set, Next to Normal will leave audiences awestruck. However, we hope that audiences take away much more than just the spectacle. Next to Normal is a great way to open the door to discussion about mental health—whether that is a private or public discussion.”

By guest contributors Greg Karp-Neufeld and Giovanna Olson