Mom is doing her best to raise two teens, packing lunches and making sure all is in order. Dad is an architect, doing his part to fulfill his fatherly role. And the kids – one boy and one girl – are seemingly normal, sarcastic teenagers.
But what is unknown is the manic depression that lurks inside the home.
“Next to Normal” is an award-winning musical brought to life by the Summit Theatre Group. A winner of three 2009 Tony Awards – as well as a 2010 Pulitzer Prize – critics from around the country, from the New York Times to Rolling Stone, called this performance the year’s top 10 shows to see.
In a typical setting in a typical town, the lives of this family are anything but normal as this play takes the audience into hearts and minds of each character, revealing intimate secrets and presenting the family’s story with love, sympathy and compassion.
“Directing ‘Next to Normal’ has been an eye-opening experience,” Summit Theatre Group director Gabriel Livingston said. “The piece does a wonderful job of exploring the issue of mental illness in a family home from each family member’s perspective. While the story is mostly told through the lens of the mother suffering from bipolar disorder and depression, each character clearly has his or her own point of view and unique musical influence.
Livingston said “Next to Normal” is a piece designed for the entire family and offers the audience a glimpse into the toll mental illness takes on a person.
“Often times I feel that we tend to use the umbrella term ‘mental illness’ and have a very narrow way of thinking about it,” he said. “The most brilliant thing the musical does is paint a picture of a family that we all can identify with, therefore these issues that plague people daily don’t seem so far away. We can connect. After all, we come to the theater to feel something and to learn about others.”
“Next to Normal” stars Alecia Stultz (Leawood, Kan.) as Diana, Stan Cole (Blue Springs) as Dan, Kyle Hyde (Shawnee, Kan.) as Gabe, Payton Meyer (Overland Park, Kan.) as Natalie, Johnny Briseno (Lee’s Summit) as Henry and Jesse Yost (Pleasant Hill) as Dr. Madden. Livingston and Musical Director Becca Stabno are from Lee’s Summit.
“Next to Normal” hits the stage June 15-16, 22-24 at the MCC-Longview Cultural Arts Center, 500 SW Longview Road, in Lee’s Summit. All shows begin at 7:30 p.m. except for June 24, which is a 2:30 p.m. matinee.
For more information on tickets ($15 for adults, $12 for students/seniors), visit www.summittheatre.org or visit one of the two Lee’s Summit HyVee stores.