A new and exciting production of Next to Normal is opening this week in Sydney.
Presented by Whimsical Productions, the contemporary rock musical is a winner of three 2009 Tony Awards, including Best Musical Score, and the 2010 Pulitzer Prize. It is a poignant exploration of grief, ethics in modern psychiatry, and suburban life.
Next to Normal has been praised for its boldness in addressing mental health, a topic often shrouded in stigma and silence, particularly in the world of music theatre. It humanised these struggles, and encouraged open dialogue about mental health in a way few other works had achieved. Its legacy endures not only for its artistic brilliance but for the lives it touched, the conversations it ignited, and the empathy it cultivated worldwide.
Producer and Choreographer Michael Osborne feels that Next to Normal is incredibly pertinent and important to stage:
Next to Normal, although originally written in 2009, is so relevant right now in our Sydney community in 2023. It is a confronting theatrical piece, but also a cathartic experience. We hope to bring some comfort to people who are going through some tough times.
Next to Normal follows the life of Diana Goodman, a resilient woman navigating mental illness, alongside her husband Dan, a weary architect, and their two gifted yet troubled teenagers, Natalie and Gabe. The production also features the romantic connection between Natalie and her schoolmate Henry, and offers insights into the challenges of living with mental health issues through various doctor characters.
Co-Directors Eezu Tan and Marie-Jo Orbase hope to bring Brian Yorkey’s compelling narrative to life with a vision to humanise the characters and challenge mental health stereotypes. “Every rehearsal has been magical as we explore a story on mental health, family and healing,” says Eezu. “The team has put together something special that needs to be shared.”
Whimsical Productions takes pride in supporting diversity, with a female-led direction team and a cast that includes emerging talent from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD), Black, Indigenous, People of Colour (BIPOC), LGBTIQ+, and neurodiverse backgrounds.
Jacen Benett, who plays Gabe, says:
Next To Normal brings a taste of reality to the stage with no holding back on how incredibly exciting or heartbreakingly brutal that may be.
Next to Normal is not just a musical, but a profound exploration of the human experience, reminding us that, in the face of adversity, understanding, empathy, and hope can prevail.
Please be advised that Next to Normal contains elements that may not be suitable for all audiences. The production includes strobe lighting, strong language, sexual references, drug use, adult themes, and references to self-harm and suicide. It is recommended for ages 16+.
For tickets and more information, please visit the ARA Darling Quarter Theatre website.