‘It’s Gonna Be Good’: Emerson Stage to put on production of Next to Normal

Next+to+Normal+cover+art

“Next to Normal” cover art

By Payton Cavanaugh

Content Warning: This article mentions a play that includes “depictions of mental health, medical care and treatment, intense loss, a suicide attempt, and drug use” (as per Emerson Stage: Next to Normal event info)**

Next weekend, Emerson Stage will be putting on the Pulitzer Prize winning musical, “Next to Normal,” an American rock musical by Brian Yorkey about a mother who struggles with bipolar disorder and its effects on her family. As sophomore Alex Serino playing the role of Henry says, “It’s gonna be good.”

The musical explores recurring themes of grief, loss, mental illness, and drug use, among others, whilst analyzing the dynamics of relationships and often begging the question of what normal truly is.

The cast of this show is quite small, made up of 10 individuals: six acting company members  and four understudies. As discussed by cast members of the show, the sizing of the cast truly lends itself to the closeness of its members, and the connectedness portrayed on stage. 

“Having a cast of six really dedicated actors has just been such a crazy experience, and 100% we do get really close to each other,” said sophomore Maxwell Connor, who plays the role of Gabe, the son of the family. “With a bigger cast, there’s a lot of distractions. With these people, it’s just only them for hours of the day. I love it.” 

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Serino also enjoyed the close-knit nature of the show’s cast. 

“It’s really a pleasure to work in such a small group just because of how intimate the rehearsal room can be and how we all get along so well,” Serino said. “Cedrick, Dennis, Roberta, they’re all just some of the funniest people I’ve ever met, they’re just great to work with, and we all share these great dynamics. There’s a moment where Cedrick and I, in the number ‘It’s Gonna Be Good,’ we share this small moment. It’s small, where we just have this connection between each other, and that’s a moment where I see real life reflecting in the characters.”

The show portrays a family and their struggles with mental illness, and what is most notably different in Emerson Stage’s adaptation of the musical is their approach to portraying another message––everyone can face these struggles, no matter who they are. 

“This show is all about a family, but in our production, they don’t look like a family,” said Anthony Feola, stage manager of the production. “Mostly everyone is from a different ethnicity and a different background, which is very cool to kind of show how grieving and mental illness can affect anyone no matter who you are.” 

Connor also noted the major themes presented in the musical portray real-life struggles that many are faced with.

“I think it’s really important that that was a highlighted part of the show,” Connor said. “That this is an everyday thing for everyone and that these problems are things that everyone can face and that everyone should try and get help for, reach out to people for. That’s also a big theme of the show, asking for help when you need it and finding ways that work for you to get the help that you need.”

The show is a “good rollercoaster of emotions,” according to Connor, and it is driven by a strong message to be shared. 

Serino noted the emotional effect and impact of the performance.

“The closing number is just, if you’re not in tears, I’d be surprised,” said Serino. “It’s strong, there’s just such strong subject matter that really needs to be shared and is so important for people to hear.”

The production, which is currently sold out, will be holding performances Thursday, Jan. 27, and Friday, Jan. 28, at 8 p.m. This is followed by three more performances occurring on Saturday, Jan. 29 at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m., and Sunday, Jan. 30 at 2 p.m. All performances will be held in the Greene Theatre at the Tufte Performance and Production Center.