This musical is pretty timely, given that it’s Mental Health Awareness Week. The three-time Tony Award-winning Broadway musical and Pulitzer Prize winner for Drama Next to Normal hasn’t left my mind. I find myself thinking even more so on how so many people around us strive for simply a “normal” life these days — whatever that normal means.
Next to Normal follows the story of the Goodman family and the struggles with living and treating the mental health of the mother, Diana (Ma-Anne Dionisio). The story is raw and emotional as she tries to manage her daily life while dealing with a variety of medication and treatment. The impact on her own identity and her family takes its toll while her husband (Troy Adams) tries desperately to hang on to his ideal and normal.
The gripping storyline is not an easy pill to swallow but it does leave you thinking more about how mental health impacts a family and the performance from the cast with a contemporary rock score is exceptional. You may remember Ma-Anne Dionisio when she shook the Princess of Wales Theatre with her powerful lead role in Miss Saigon years back. She still brings that force with her in this production of Next to Normal that is nothing short of breathtaking.
We had a chance to ask Troy Adams who plays husband and father Dan, more about the musical.
What should we know about Dan?
TA: Dan is a successful Architect. Although he provides financial stability for his family, there are factors he can’t control. Namely his wife’s bipolar disorder. Although the last 16 years have been tumultuous, he made a vow. Better or worse. Day by day is his mantra. As Dan says “Living on a latte and a prayer”. He is doing his best to hold his family together.
We know the story centres around Diana’s mental health but what are Dan’s struggles?
TA: Long term, he has been supporting his wife Diana through her journey and various treatments relating to her bipolar disorder. With the expectation, they will find the right treatment for Diana. Now after 16 years of various treatment, and no solutions, they find themselves at the crossroads.
How do you prep for such an emotional show that so many can relate to?
TA: Prepping for this role/show was and is basically the same as any other role. That being said, In many ways, N2N is a little too familiar. In varying degrees, Mental Health issues touch us all. And at least in “my circle” I find the taboo’s regarding Mental Health are minimal. Transparency, regarding Mental Health, over the last 5 years or so, has helped diminish the stigmas associated with Mental Health.
What has been eye-opening in this musical for you?
TA: Well, N2N is very honest regarding the depiction of the Mental Health field. There isn’t a “quick fix” regarding diagnosis and treatment. It can be a long process to find “balance”. If it is even found. In ‘I’ve Been’, Dan sums it up perfectly, “And all the times that I’ve been told the way her illness goes – the truth of it is no one really knows”.
What’s been the feedback?
TA: So far is of excitement. I have heard a few people gently discuss their familiarity with the subject matter. I have also heard some voice, that they may not be able to attend because of the subject matter (too close for comfort). I’m looking forward to the post-show “talkbacks”.
The rehearsal process must be an emotional one. How is it different from other plays or musicals? How do you keep calm and carry on?
TA: Well, it’s about technique/ sense memory. Hopefully, that will convey in a truthful, yet safe way, the emotional journey of the character. Ultimately the discoveries found in rehearsals will impact the performance. Our production of N2N will definitely be an emotional experience for the audience.
What is your favorite line in the script?
TA: Wow, honestly there are many. But I think the title would be my favourite. Trying to live a “normal” life is unrealistic and can be troublesome since normal doesn’t really exist. “Normal” is a construct, we ALL live in the areas “Next” to Normal, and the Goodman’s is definitely that.
Next to Normal is now on stage at the CAA Theatre in Toronto until May 19, 2019. For more information visit www.mirvish.com