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NEXT TO NORMAL Director’s Notes

January 20th, 2012

Initially I was reluctant to see Next To Normal on Broadway. The story of a bi-polar woman told in a musical seemed like a stretch, and it didn’t make my “must see” list in two different trips I had to NYC. During that time though I began to read the on-line comments of audience members and musical theatre fans who were seeing the show, loving it and talking about how revolutionary and moving it was. I finally went to see it, and was completely blown away by the terrific music, the extraordinary performances, the novel way the story was told, and the dynamic structure which found equal amounts of humor and pathos to relate this very compelling journey. Yes, it was a stretch all right, and in all the right ways.

I think it is brilliant writing and it has become my very favorite theatre experience of the past five years. Sometimes when you work on a play you greatly admire as a director, you can mess up the experience for yourself by spending everyday with it in a rehearsal room for five weeks, and for months before that planning and thinking about how you want to bring the story to life. With each day and each rehearsal I have grown in deeper appreciation for the great work the Next To Normal composers and book writers created.

I’m sure that most of us have experienced the challenges of a family member’s serious health issues — physical, emotional or mental. It takes a toll on the patient and the entire family of caregivers, and the family structure gets completely reconfigured around the person in distress. I knew the intimacy of this musical would be enhanced by being performed on ZACH’s stage. I also knew that Meredith McCall, with whom I have worked for 20 years, was ideally suited for this pivotal role, as she is Austin’s very best dramatic singing actress. Fifteen years ago Meredith tackled a similar character for me in ZACH’s production of Angels In America when she brought Harper, a depressed Mormon housewife who self-medicated herself to delusional fantasies, to vivid life on our stage. And I also knew that Jamie Goodwin, who has done great dramatic work on our stages as well as several comedic roles in musicals, would have the opportunity to show you a different side to his extraordinary abilities that combine these two sides of his talents.

Next To Normal had important, pivotal developmental productions at great regional theatres — Arena Stage in DC, and Off-Broadway at NYC’s Second Stage — on the way to becoming a Pulitzer prize winning Broadway musical. Each of these incarnations of the musical were vastly different, and huge changes were implemented by the composer team at each stage of the show’s development. With ZACH’s Topfer Theatre coming to fruition in 2012/13, I am thrilled that ZACH will now be one of the premiere places in our nation where you will be the first to see brand new, Broadway-bound musicals and plays being incubated and produced for the very first time, taking their first steps in front of you. And your input as the audience will now shape the future life and destiny of those next works of art that have a life beyond our city. Prepare to expect wonders!

Dave Steakley

Producing Artistic Director

Performances Tuesday-Saturday at 8pm & Sundays at 2:30pm
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