While SNAP Productions is often associated with staging plays that deal with sexual orientation, its mission of promoting diversity and acceptance applies to a broader range of issues.
Case in point: “Next to Normal,” a Pulitzer Prize-winning rock musical that SNAP will open Friday for a four-weekend run, confronts coping with mental illness, the ethics of psychiatry, grief and family loss, and contemporary suburban life.
“It also doesn’t hurt that we are all really fond of the music,” director Michal Simpson said of the show. “Great message, but wow, those songs. I find myself humming them at home all the time.”
Tom Kitt wrote the score, with book and lyrics by Brian Yorkey. The show won three Tonys in 2009, including best score, and was nominated for eight more.
“Next to Normal” is the story of a suburban mom, Diana, who suffers from bipolar disorder. Her architect husband, Dan, struggles to hold the family together and get his wife the help she needs.
Their overachieving daughter, Natalie, takes refuge in the piano practice room, then gets involved with boyfriend Henry. Son Gabe is the kind who misses curfew. A lot.
Over the course of the play, Diana works with a psychiatrist and a psycho-pharmacologist, but not without frustration over the results.
Music director Keith Hart and four instrumentalists have been rehearsing the score, which includes plenty of hard-edged rock and “some softer stuff,” Simpson said.
The set in the tiny, intimate theater consists of open platforms and stairs that serve as a psychiatric office, a hospital, the family home, the piano room at school and more. Minimal props and set pieces suggest the many locations.
“It’s an emotional ride,” Simpson said. “I think it’s going to help some folks to understand what others are coping with.”
After the June 7 performance, SNAP will host counselors from Community Alliance to talk about bipolar disorder and local mental health resources. Cast members and directors will also answer questions from the audience.
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