Musical drama ‘Next to Normal’ at UW-Stevens Point

A family struggles with mental illness in the musical “Next to Normal,” staged by the Department of Theatre and Dance at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point April 4-6 and 9-12.

The winner of the 2010 Pulitzer Prize and three 2009 Tony Awards, “Next to Normal” uses a rock score and intricate harmonies to reflect the struggles of a mother with bipolar disorder and a family trying to maintain its ties.

It will be performed in the Studio Theatre in the Noel Fine Arts Center, 1800 Portage St., at 7:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, April 4-5, and Wednesday through Saturday, April 9-12. A 2 p.m. matinee will be performed Sunday, April 6.

Admission is $19 for adults, $18 for senior citizens and $14 for students. Tickets are available at the Information and Tickets Office in the Dreyfus University Center,, or by calling 715-346-4100 or 800-838-3378.

While mental illness is an unconventional issue for a musical, the show is smartly written with a score than connects the audience to its characters, said director Tyler Marchant, an associate professor in the Department of Theatre and Dance.

“The writers of ‘Next to Normal’ were interested in challenging what musical theater can be,” he said. Almost entirely sung, the show uses contemporary music styles to relate emotional issues, he added. This has made it a demanding show both physically and emotionally for the six student cast members, who researched mental health issues to prepare for the show and worked closely with musical director, Assistant Professor Alan Patrick Kenny.

A beautiful but minimal set helps create an intimate story and a window into the family’s challenges, Marchant said.

“It’s about people trying to survive, believing they can get healthy and that their family can be there for them. They are not striving to be perfect, but they hope for ‘Next to Normal.’”

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