May 29, 2024

The Pulitzer Prize-winning musical for Drama “Next To Normal” debuted at Wittenberg University this past week. This intense play was written by Brian Yorkey and Tom Kitt and directed by Jillian Stout, ’17.

On opening night, students, alumni, faculty and staff filled the audience in excitement to watch the production.

Everyone cheered loudly when Stout came out to introduce the play. The musical played from Monday to Wednesday in the Springfield Art Museum’s student theatre.

The musical opens with wife Diane Goodman (Ann Kostell, ’17) and husband Dan (Zach Hoyer, ’19) singing about how normal and perfect their family is. The audience is then introduced to the son (Adam Barstow, ’17) and the daughter Natalie (Hannah Brattain, ’20).

The audience also sees the mother making the kids food on the ground. From here, the audience is set up for twisty events that happen later in the play.

The scene soon switches to the doctor (Caleb Beck, ’19) and Diane. The audience learns that there could be a problem with the mother, but doesn’t learn what that may be.

In the next scenes, the audience is exposed more to the daughter. The daughter is a musician and has a boy named Henry (Jacob Davis, ‘18 ). There isn’t much information about the son yet.

The relationship of the mother and daughter didn’t seem as strong as the son and the mother. When the daughter had recitals, the mother never showed to support or had a desire to attend, but the audience never failed to see the mother spending time with her mother.

The production goes back and forth between the home life and the doctor scenes, giving the audience intense anticipation on the back story of her going to the hospital.

Later in the show, the audience learns more on the son. As the family sat down, Diane asks about the son coming to dinner.

The husband replies, saying the song has been dead for 17 years. This causes the mother distress and she was taking to the doctor and was hypnotized to help her out with all of her delusions about her son.

It was revealed that Diane suffered from bipolar depressive disorder and delusional episodes. She was in and out of mental institutions throughout her life. The mother’s illness slowly affected how the family functioned.

The negative impact caused the couple to split from each other. During the emotional scenes, there was a lot of sniffling and the sound of tears throughout the crowd.

This play wasn’t directed by a traditional theatre person or professor; it was directed by a student, Stout. She spoke about her thoughts on the play:

“Directing this show has literally been a year in the making,” Stout said. “I asked my professor if I could this show around this time last year and I thought they would say ‘nope.’ Luckily, that didn’t happen.”

Towards the end of musical, the mother is shown getting better and soon takes an interest in talking to her daughter about improving their relationship.

This musical touches on sensitive topics, and can be used for the audience to interpret the message how they want to interpret it.

“The play was very moving. I was very interested in the story line and it very emotional for me at some points,” O’Jeanique Washington, ’17, said.

Another student voiced her opinion on the performance.

“I thought the play was really good and had a great plot twist at the end. It really surprised me because it was really emotional and realistic,” Aacha Gregg, ‘20, said.

The play finished with an all cast song, leaving the audience to give an emotional round of applause.


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