TCT tackles mental illness


‘Next to Normal’ premieres at Barn in the Park

By Cody Willoughby - cwilloughby@aimmediamidwest.com



Cody Willoughby | Troy Daily News From left, Jenny Weber as Diana, Mark Van Luvender as Dan, Alicia Walton as Natalie, and Doug Gibbons as Gabe ponder on why family matriach Diana is making sandwiches on the floor in “Next to Normal,” a new production from Troy Civic Theatre.

Cody Willoughby | Troy Daily News From left, Jenny Weber as Diana, Mark Van Luvender as Dan, Alicia Walton as Natalie, and Doug Gibbons as Gabe ponder on why family matriach Diana is making sandwiches on the floor in “Next to Normal,” a new production from Troy Civic Theatre.


Cody Willoughby | Troy Daily News Alicia Walton as Natalie and TJ Montgomery as Henry discuss dysfunctional family life in “Next to Normal,” a new production from Troy Civic Theatre.


Cody Willoughby | Troy Daily News Jenny Weber as Diana and Steve Dietrich as Dr. Fine sing about the complicated relationship between doctor and patient in “Next to Normal,” a new production from Troy Civic Theatre.


TROY — Troy Civic Theatre is opening the 2018-19 season with modern rock musical, “Next to Normal,” with performances set at the Barn in the Park on Friday, Sept. 21 and Saturday, Sept. 22 at 8 p.m. and Sunday, Sept. 23 at 2 p.m.

Encore performances will be held the following week on Friday, Sept. 28 and Saturday, Sept 29 at 8 p.m. and Sunday, Sept. 30 at 2 p.m.

Tickets are $16 for all ages at every performance.

“It’s a newer show than we usually do,” said Niccole SueAnn Wallace, who is directing her fourth show for Troy Civic Theatre. “Troy does a lot of family-friendly, classic community theater shows, and this something a little newer and a different genre for us. We don’t do a lot of modern rock-musical-type shows, and I think it’s something unique that’ll bring attention to the theatre.”

“Next to Normal” chronicles the story of Diana Goodman, who has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder for 16 years, and how she and her family deal with the diagnosis as she searches for the right treatment.

“This is a very personal show for me,” Wallace said. “My mother was diagnosed bipolar seven years ago, a year before she passed away, and this show was very important to me when my mother was first diagnosed. I saw it two weeks after her initial diagnosis, and she was very much like the lead character, Diana. It really helped me, and it’s something I’ve looked forward to bringing to audiences.”

The crew emphasized the importance of music in the show, with the cast singing through the majority of the show’s narrative.

“The show is very challenging musically, because it’s almost an opera,” said music director Derek Dunavent, who has participated in approximately 40 shows at TCT. “The music doesn’t stop. It’s almost two-and-a-half hours of solid music, so it’s very demanding on our actors.

“It’s very interesting material, because of how it deals with mental disorders. To be able to sing and emote and continue that intense roller coaster throughout the show can be very demanding out of their voices, but they’ve really stepped up their game.”

The cast of “Next to Normal” includes, alphabetically, Steve Dietrich as Dr. Fine/Dr. Madden, Doug Gibbons as Gabe, TJ Montgomery as Henry, Mark Van Luvender as Dan, Alicia Walton as Natalie, and Jenny Weber as Diana.

The Tri-County Board of Recovery and Mental Health Services will host an information booth on site at every performance to talk with those in attendance. Board staff members will be present before, during, and after the show to provide information for local treatment resources.

“When Niccole approached us about providing information during the performances, we immediately saw it as a tremendous opportunity to provide information in the context of seeing how families struggle,” said Brad Reed, Tri-County’s Director for Community Resource Development. “So often, whether it is health fairs or county fairs or whatever, we have information available but the attending public isn’t all that interested — they don’t see how it applies to them.

“In the context of watching this performance, they will be ready to think about what they would do if and when they experience mental illness in their own family.”

Reed stressed that the Tri-County Board staff would be there for information purposes only, and will not provide counseling or medical advice.

“It’s really not the venue for that,” Reed said, “but we can get the information into people’s hands so they can take the next step, if appropriate.”

“I feel like there are a lot of stigmas attached to mental illness in our society, and it’s definitely something that I want people to be able to to talk about, get help if they need it, and understand as family members how to deal and what to expect,” Wallace said.

“Next to Normal” consists of two acts with a 15-minute intermission. The cast and crew request that all attendants arrive at least 15 minutes prior to the start of each performance.

For more information, visit www.troycivictheatre.com.

Cody Willoughby | Troy Daily News From left, Jenny Weber as Diana, Mark Van Luvender as Dan, Alicia Walton as Natalie, and Doug Gibbons as Gabe ponder on why family matriach Diana is making sandwiches on the floor in “Next to Normal,” a new production from Troy Civic Theatre.
https://www.tdn-net.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/21/2018/09/web1_Play1.jpgCody Willoughby | Troy Daily News From left, Jenny Weber as Diana, Mark Van Luvender as Dan, Alicia Walton as Natalie, and Doug Gibbons as Gabe ponder on why family matriach Diana is making sandwiches on the floor in “Next to Normal,” a new production from Troy Civic Theatre.

Cody Willoughby | Troy Daily News Alicia Walton as Natalie and TJ Montgomery as Henry discuss dysfunctional family life in “Next to Normal,” a new production from Troy Civic Theatre.
https://www.tdn-net.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/21/2018/09/web1_Play2.jpgCody Willoughby | Troy Daily News Alicia Walton as Natalie and TJ Montgomery as Henry discuss dysfunctional family life in “Next to Normal,” a new production from Troy Civic Theatre.

Cody Willoughby | Troy Daily News Jenny Weber as Diana and Steve Dietrich as Dr. Fine sing about the complicated relationship between doctor and patient in “Next to Normal,” a new production from Troy Civic Theatre.
https://www.tdn-net.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/21/2018/09/web1_Play3.jpgCody Willoughby | Troy Daily News Jenny Weber as Diana and Steve Dietrich as Dr. Fine sing about the complicated relationship between doctor and patient in “Next to Normal,” a new production from Troy Civic Theatre.
‘Next to Normal’ premieres at Barn in the Park

By Cody Willoughby

cwilloughby@aimmediamidwest.com