OFFBEAT: 'Next to Normal' compelling stage run returns next month

Phil Potempa's daily entertainment news column
2013-07-15T00:00:00Z 2013-08-25T11:21:08Z OFFBEAT: 'Next to Normal' compelling stage run returns next monthBy Philip Potempa, (219) 852-4327

When I saw the Broadway national tour of "Next to Normal," the stage musical about mental illness in May 2011, I was impressed and easily immersed in the subject, since it is often treated as a taboo topic.

That touring run of the smash hit direct-from-Broadway musical and Tony and Pulitzer Prize-winner starred the multi-talented Alice Ripley, who received the 2009 Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical for her performance, and agreed to reprise her acclaimed performance in the musical's 36-week multi-city North American tour.

Then last July, Jeff Casey and our own Towle Theater in Hammond snagged the rights, making it the first local community theater group to rate with an Indiana premiere.

If you still haven't had a chance to check out this remarkable twist and turn journey into a mentally comprised (and medicated) mind, a third opportunity is just around the corner.

Drury Lane Theatre in Oakbrook Terrace is about to present what will now rank as "the regional premiere" of Broadway's sensational "Next to Normal," opening for previews Aug. 15 prior to the Aug. 22 opening for a run through Oct. 6, 2013.

This latest production stars Jeff Award nominee Susie McMonagle as the lead, "Diana," following her turns as "Fantine" in "Les Miserables" on Broadway and the first national tours of "Billy Elliot" and "Mamma Mia," and she'll be opposite Jeff Award winner Rod Thomas as her husband "Dan." The production is being directed by Drury Lane Theatre Artistic Director William Osetek.

This is the riveting story, treated as an unconscious dissection, of a "normal" suburban American family. Driven by a provocative score featuring more than 30 original pop/rock songs, the narrative digs into the household foundation, unearthing skeletons of the past. It is a musical that asks the question: Can the seemingly perfect family survive an insurmountable event and tender the untenable?

Featuring an amazing contemporary score which wraps itself around the mind and senses, "Next to Normal" is nothing short of an emotional powerhouse musical about a family trying to survive a different day-to-day existence.

Lead character Diana has spent much of her adult life engaged in a mental and emotional tug-of-war. Her mental illness is bipolar disorder and the audience discovers quickly by way of the opening number, "Just Another Day," that she has "good days and bad days."

Every day is a struggle for Diana to complete the needed day-to-day tasks of caring for her family, with husband Dan, mysterious son Gabe and overachieving daughter Natalie. The family has the benefit of a helping hand and support from Dr. Madden and Dr. Fine, and Henry, Natalie's friend from school.

But soon, it's apparent to all, that it's both the hauntings of past events in Diana's life, as well as the images she faces all around her in the present, that drive Diana's moments on the brink.

The Drury Lane run also stars Skyler Adams, Callie Johnson, Colte Julian and Josh Tolle and is choreographed by Jeff Award winner Tammy Mader, with an intricate set by Scenic Designer Scott Davis.

Tickets range from $32 to $74, with options for lunch and dinner packages, available at (630) 530-0111 or

"Next to Normal" features music by Tom Kitt, book and lyrics by Brian Yorkey.

Copyright 2014 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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