Center Stage sure knows how to pick ’em. And that goes for both the plays they choose to present and the amazing actors they bring to Baltimore’s stage. This week, the new musical Next to Normal began previews at Center Stage’s intimate Head Theater (not the usual grandiose setting one expects for a musical); but the setting is absolutely perfect for the intense and surprising subject matter covered in the Pulitzer Prize-winning show. It’s the story of one family’s struggle with mental illness. Specifically, it follows the story of a suburban mother struggling with bipolar disorder and the effect it has on her family. It’s darkly funny and groundbreaking as it dives boldly into the gaps and crevices of our modern fragmented lives. Set to an electric score, this “brave, breathtaking musical” (The New York Times) gets right to the heart of what it means to truly miss someone.
Next to Normal features a vibrant rock score that won the 2009 Tony Award for Best Original Score and the 2008 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Music. So it’s already got that going for it. But add to that the incredibly talented Baltimore cast and crew, and you’ve got a sure bet. Baltimore native, Broadway vet, and 11-time director of Center Stage productions David Schweizer is helming the show as director. Says Center Stage’s Artistic Director Kwame Kwei-Armah, “Having David here again is a treat. In his capable hands, I know Next to Normal will move audiences to the same rollercoaster of emotions that is in Brian Yorkey’s brilliant script. I love this show because it dares to go where no other musical has gone before, and tackles mental illness with authenticity and a biting humor.”
It’s true. And it also illuminates why the play feels so right here.“What draws me so much to this work is the feistiness of it in what might seem to others to be insurmountable odds,” says Schweizer. “I kind of consider that a Baltimore thing, too.” Totally.
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