News Column

'Next to Normal' musical explores bipolar disorder

May 23, 2013


May 23--"When our long night is done, there will be light."

This last line sung in the musical "Next to Normal" sums up the piece quite well, said Jordan Stocksdale, musical director of the show, in a recent phone interview.

"It's a very poignant lesson ... especially today, when everyone is focusing on the bad in the world; if you think things through and if you have people that love and support you, there will be light at the end of the tunnel," Stocksdale said, of the message the show gives to the audience. "In the end ... things turn out they way they're supposed to. There's hurt, pain and depression along the way, but in the end there is light."

Stocksdale is the co-founder and artistic director of Stocking Productions, the company that will present the show at Way Off Broadway this weekend. He and friend Laura Walling started the company in 2007, so that they could perform a production of the musical "A New Brain." Since, the company has produced six musicals, about one a year -- including productions of "The Rocky Horror Picture Show," "Into the Woods" and "Rent," Stocksdale said.

"We really like to go for shows that don't actually get done a lot -- especially ones that really don't get done in this area," he added.

Walling had seen "Next to Normal" on Broadway in 2010, and told Stocksdale about it. "She called me at intermission, and said her mind was blown," he said. "She said it was just amazing, the music was fantastic and it had a great storyline."

The musical focuses on one family -- particularly the mother, Diana Goodman. Diana is bipolar, and the musical deals with how the family copes with her illness, as well as the effect it has on her husband, kids and her psychiatrist.

The cast is just six people, including Stocksdale as the father and Walling as the daughter.

Stocksdale said working with such a small cast has been "an incredible bonding and learning experience," but that each of them have been challenged with opening themselves up and confronting the issues the piece explores.

"It deals with these issues that no one ever wants to talk about with others, or even acknowledge themselves," he said.

"It's just powerful on so many levels," Walling added. "It doesn't matter if you identify with the specific problems the family has in the show ... . It does focus a lot of mental illness, but it also deals with a lot of family issues that are pretty much universal. Everyone comes out of there with something to think about at least."

Because it is meant to be informational as well as entertaining, the show will have a community outreach aspect as well. Actor Jordan Allen, who plays the psychiatrist in the show, works at a psychiatrist's office in Frederick, Stocksdale said. Business cards for the office will be available at the show, and there will also be information in the program as to where one may seek help, if needed, he added. The psychiatrist from Allen's office also came to speak to the cast about mental illness, Stocksdale added.

"It's a very touching and moving piece of theater," Stocksdale said. "And it's nice to be in such an intimate space for such an intimate show. When you're in a large, 1,000 seat theater, you don't get that up-close personal feel; you can't necessarily see the tear run down someone's face or see their expression. Here, being in such a small space, I think it all reads 10 times more."


What: "Next to Normal" Where: Way Off Broadway Dinner Theatre and Children's Theatre, 5 Willowdale Drive, Frederick.When: May 23 to 25 at 8 p.m. Doors open at 7:15 p.m. The show is about two hours long with one intermission.Tickets: $25 for adults and $20 for students and seniors.Info: 301-662-6600; www.wayoffbroadway.comFor mature audiences.


(c)2013 The Frederick News-Post (Frederick, Md.)

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