Next to Normal is not your average musical. It’s not a fairy tale story with a happy ending, it’s about as real and raw as it gets. Cardinal Music Productions will tackle the emotional show, opening Friday (March 22).
Audiences come to know the story of Diana Goodman and her family through a dynamic and energetic pop-rock score. Traumatized by the death of her infant son from an undiagnosed intestinal obstruction, Diana has lived with bipolar depressive disorder and delusional episodes for the past 17 years. The illness has affected everyone in her life, and has nearly torn her family apart on several occasions. Next to Normal explores pressing contemporary issues of trauma, loss, mental health treatment, and the meaning of family.
“I chose Next to Normal for several reasons,” director Joseph Cardinal explained to 519. “I love the heart of the show and the way it tackles mental health issues, and how the issues affect every member of the family in different ways, and each member of the family is allowed to bare their soul and journey to the audience. Very powerful stuff. The fantastic score that won a Tony in 2009 also helps and last but not least the opportunity to perform a musical that won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 2010. I often hear that actors in musicals can’t act and that musicals are primarily fluff and this show dispels all those myths in one fell swoop.”
For Cardinal, who produced the show in 2013, the issues of mental illness are just as relevant now as they were then.
“Mental illness has touched every one of our lives in one form or another and it is important to talk about,” he noted. “In 2013 I was receiving phone calls from people thanking me for bring light to the subject and telling me their own personal stories for weeks after the show was finished. As an actor and a director, that show took so much out of me. I never experienced anything like that for other shows I performed and there have been many. I do recommend it, but be warned it is raw and real and it will bring you to tears.”
The show not only tackles bipolar disorder, but also the treatment itself. The use of pharmaceutical and medical treatments is pretty bold.
“You can’t tone down this show it is what it is and that’s what makes it so great and I wouldn’t have it any other way,” Cardinal said. “That is part of the reason for having my own company – no boundaries to contend with. The show is not a satire nor is it dark – it is real and emotional. There is no happy ending, but there is always hope and that is a start.”
Directing the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for Drama is an emotional thing for Cardinal, who saw the production live in New York.
“Watching the struggles of the all-American family who lives next door to you from the inside is very dramatic,” Cardinal added. “We all think our neighbors have fantastic lives but do they really? We expose their lives with this piece and that is the beauty of it.
The handpicked cast was not auditioned. Cardinal based his decision on several components: acting and singing ability, proper look for the different roles and most importantly team players who truly understand the concept of working together for one common goal.
The cast for this show includes Lindsay Norris (Diana), Joe Cardinal (Dan), Regan White (Natalie), Drew Beaudoin (Gabriel), Nick Palazzolo (Henry) and Sydney White (Dr. Fine, Dr. Madden).
Cardinal Music Productions presents Next to Normal on March 22 to 24 and 29 to 31 at Urban Field House in Emeryville. Ticket are $25. For more information, visit, cardinalmusicproductions.com.