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Lee Street theatre’s ‘Next to Normal’ is anything but normal

By Caitlin Wade Billings for LSt 

“Next to Normal” is a Tony Award winning musical with a fabulous book and genius lyrics written by Brian Yorkey, and a spine chilling score by Tom Kitt. This two act rock musical explores how one seemingly average suburban family copes with crisis and mental illness. “Next to Normal” won three 2009 Tony Awards, the Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding New Score, and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. The story centers around a mother who struggles with her worsening bipolar disorder.  Addressing issues such as grief and the dark underbelly of suburban life, “Next to Normal” tackles our waking nightmares with sharp humor and brilliant musical numbers making this show what the New York Times calls a “feel-everything musical, which asks you, with operatic force, to discover the liberation in knowing where it hurts.”

Director Craig Kolkebeck shares his experience working on such a profound production;

“When it comes to directing, straight plays have always stood out as my first choice and any artistic director looking to hire me my say my musical theatre direction is “weak.” The reality is, I love good stories, musical or non, that have the potential to move audiences emotionally. ‘Next to Normal’ fits that personal bill and is packed with incredible music that nearly rivals the great Stephen Sondheim.

“For me, ‘Next to Normal’ is a love story. It’s the story of the challenge of love and holding the family together against a mother’s severe depression and associated disorders. Her struggles to win and regain not only her family, but herself as well, are extremely engaging and poignant. In the end, it’s a story of hope that love will triumph. I have been very blessed to have such an incredible cast for this show. The combination of professionals with community actors and blossoming professionals with our students from the CataLst Program at Catawba College will be undoubtedly be one of Lee Street’s finest!”

This production is performed in collaboration with Catawba College through a newly established internship program called the CataLst Internship.  The internship was offered to upperclassmen students at Catawba College in hopes to enrich the minds of the young artists who were chosen and to help them enhance their craft.  As such, the roles of Natalie, Gabe, and Henry are played by students from Catawba College Theatre Arts Department.

This phenomenal cast includes: Wendy Weant (Salisbury) as Diana, Tommy Foster (Concord) as Dan, Larissa Garcia (San Diego, Ca.) as Natalie, Jacob Hammill (Gold Hill) as Gabe, Randy Stull (Frederick, Md.) as Henry, and Tim Campbell (Salisbury,) as Dr. Madden. Our abundantly talented creative team includes the direction of artistic director Craig Kolkebeck, scenic and lighting design by technical director Chris Speer, and publicity by marketing director Caitlin Billings.

Performances are Nov. 2-4 and 9-11 at 7:30 p.m. Student Rush Night will be held Nov. 8 at 7:30 p.m. Student pay $5 cash at the door when they present their student ID. Performances will take place at Lee Street Theatre, 329 N. Lee St. Tickets are $20+tax and are available at www.leestreet.org or 704-310-5507.

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