What began as a 10-minute sketch criticizing the use of electroshock therapy for the mentally ill in 1998 called “Feeling Electric” grew into a two-act rock musical the following year.
By the time the show hit Broadway in April of 1999, it was a story of a family coping with illness, loss and dealing with the unhappy parts of life. The show, now called “Next to Normal” won three Tony awards in 2009 and took home the 2010 Pulitzer for theater. Now this show is coming to Grays Harbor College’s Bishop Center, starting Nov. 1.
The story follows a woman, Diane Goodman, played by Libby Carrico, who is trying to cope with her bipolar disorder. At the same time, her husband, Dan, played by Jerrod Phelps, begins to get fed up with balancing his wife’s needs with his own. Their daughter, Natalie, played by Rebecca Meacham, finds solace in burying herself in school activities until she meets Henry, played by Chris Fruto. Dan and Diane’s son, Gabe, played by Quentin Sotomish, fights to stay on his family’s minds.
Director Brad Duffy, who is also a Grays Harbor College instructor, chose this musical after seeing it first on Broadway and then on the Capital Playhouse stage in Olympia.
“A lot of Broadway is spectacle and sometimes when you take that away, there’s not much left. But Capital Playhouse did a great job,” he said. “It showed me you can do this show on a very short and technical budget and still have a great piece of drama.”
The heavy themes are one reason why Duffy and others who were involved in casting this production looked for actors before singing or dancing talent.
“This doesn’t mean that vocals wasn’t important, it was, but it was a choice between an actor who could sing or a singer who could act, we chose the first one,” he said “Dancing is also important, but not critical in this production.”
Although there are lighter moments, the serious themes of illness, death, drug abuse and dealing with them relies heavily on presenting it through acting. Although some of the subject matter may make people uncomfortable, Duffy is confident the audience will be able to relate to the characters.
“I think this show speaks to all of us. Not just directly but indirectly, because we are all dealing with stress and dealing with issues,” he said. “On the surface, people may be asking ‘Do I really want to go see this?’ And you should. One, you’re going to be surprised by the amount of talent and you’re also going to love the messages and stories that are told that night.”
Nov. 1, 2, 8 and 9 at 7:30 p.m., with a 2 p.m. matinee set for Sunday, Nov. 10. Tickets are on sale now at www.ghc.edu/bishop or by calling 360-538-4066.