The acclaimed Broadway Drama comes to Melbourne less than four months after its Broadway closing.
Musical theatre has covered a wide range of subject matter but mental illness is not the first area that springs to mind when considering idea for shows. For once not based on a movie or juke box collection, Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey brought their original musical to Broadway in 2009 and were rewarded with great acclaim.
Next to Normal opened in time for the 2009 Tony Awards season and received a massive 11 nominations. A strong cast were attracted to the ensemble cast of only six. Alice Ripley, known for playing one of half Side Show’s conjoined twins, took the lead role of unstable Diana Goodman. Winning the Tony for Best Actress, her acceptance speech showed her to be nearly as kooky as her on-stage character. Ripley has since gone on to star in the touring production of Next to Normal.
J. Robert Spencer, the original Nick Massi from Jersey Boys, was Tony-nominated for his performance as Diana’s faithful husband Dan.
Jennifer Damiano, fresh from the original cast of Spring Awakening, was also Tony-nominated as Diana’s daughter Natalie. Damiano has gone to star as Mary Jane in Spiderman: Bring on the Dark.
Aaron Tveit originated the role of Dan and Diana’s son. Tveit took time off to film his role as Nate’s cousin Tripp van der Bilt on Gossip Girl before leaving the cast to headline the new Broadway musical Catch Me if you Can, in which he plays the Leonardo di Caprio role from the 2002 movie.
Next to Normal won Tony Awards for Best Score and Best Orchestrations. In a rare nod to musicals, Next to Normal won the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Previous musical winners include South Pacific and Rent.
MTC’s production sees previous Associate Director and Associate Musical Director Dean Bryant and Mathew Frank take the helm as Director and Musical Director. Known for their own original musicals, including Prodigal and Once We Lived Here, Bryant and Frank are a natural choice for this family drama and it is a thrill to see them handed the reins to their own MTC show after toiling on many others.
The full production team is as follows:
Director: Dean Bryant
Musical Director: Mathew Frank
Choreographer: Andrew Halsworth
Set Designer: Richard Roberts
Costume Designer: Paula Levis
Lighting Designer: Matt Scott
Assistant Director: Caleb Rixon
A somewhat surprising choice for the female lead is Kate Kendall. Best known for tv’s Stingers, Kendall is a newcomer to musical theatre. Matt Hetherington is certainly well established in musical theatre, although the role of Dan represents something of a departure for the actor having previously had great success in comic roles.
The full cast list (in alphabetical order) is as follows:
Matt Hetherington: Dan Goodman
Benjamin Hoetjes: Henry
Gareth Keegan: Gabriel “Gabe” Goodman
Kate Kendall: Diana “Di” Goodman
Bert LaBonté: Dr Fine/Dr. Madden
Christy Sullivan: Natalie Goodman
Next to Normal opens tonight, Tuesday 3 May 2011, at the Playhouse, the Arts Centre.