This Friday, for one night only, LAB! Theatre will be putting on a rendition of the renowned musical "Next to Normal." The performance begins at 7:30 p.m., is free of charge and tells a story of mental health that is sure to intrigue and entertain attendees.
The play, originally written by Brian Yorkey with music by Tom Kitt, tells the story of a mother’s grief after the death of her son and how the tragedy affects the family. It has been universally praised as it was nominated for 11 Tony Awards and won three, including Best Original Score.
Those involved in the LAB! production also praised the play’s depiction of mental illness.
“This show explores a lot of really important themes when it comes to mental illness, and it shows just one example of what one family goes through in supporting one person that has one very specific experience,” director Samantha Yancey said. “A really cool thing about the show is (it doesn’t) tell you what mental health is or how it’s supposed to be dealt with, but what makes this a really cool show is that it shows you one example, and it begins the conversation that I think is important for everyone to have as far as how mental health affects their lives and people around them.”
However, Yancey wanted to make sure that her production had a unique flavor.
“She wanted to take a lot of grieving and emotional approach to it,” assistant director Olivia Herrera said. “She wanted to make it as authentic as possible, so we were definitely trying to connect to the emotions the actors have felt in their own lives.”
On top of these thematic concerns, the play has gained its notoriety thanks to the incredible score. However, this production will be different as it will only feature a piano and vocals instead of the usual array of instrumentation.
“The musical writing is pretty smart, and it’s pretty varied — these guys are drawing from a lot of different genres," music director Marichi Gupta said. "Some of the songs would definitely fit under the definition of rock musical, but it’s got hints and pieces of other musical styles also. The vocal writing is really nice, and it’s really good.”
One of the most intriguing aspects of the play is that despite its ambition, many of those involved have little experience with college theatre. In particular, this is Yancey and Herrera's debut college directing efforts. However, it is clear that the play is in good hands.
“I’ve been planning this show and trying to hone my directorial vision of it for about a year now, and we started putting together a production team once we announced the show over the summer, but we’ve been rehearsing as a cast for about four weeks,” said Yancey. “One of the challenges that always comes with student theater is that students are very busy, so there’s a lot of conflicts involved, which is always interesting to see how that works, and it’s really cool knowing that all of our cast members are so involved in different aspects of the campus.”
With only one performance, the cast and crew hopes to see as many students as possible in Room 100 at the Genome Science Building Friday.
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