(CINCINNATI, Feb. 4, 2019) – Love, loss and the challenges of living with mental illness take center stage as Xavier University Theatre presents the critically acclaimed musical Next to Normal. The award-winning show runs February 22 through 24 in Xavier’s Gallagher Student Center Theatre.
Simultaneously heartwarming and heartbreaking, Next to Normal explores the relationships within one seemingly typical suburban family where little is what it appears to be on the surface. That’s because mom, Diana, has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and its 16-year-toll on her, her endlessly supportive husband, and their family leaves everyone struggling to keep their feet on firm ground.
The show by Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey earned 11 Tony nominations during its 2009 Broadway run, winning three awards. In 2010, it became the rare musical to receive a Pulitzer Prize for Drama, a list that also includes A Chorus Line, Rent and Hamilton.
Stephen Skiles, Xavier’s director of theatre, will helm Next to Normal. He sees the production as an important opportunity to open dialogue about mental health at Xavier. “Mental health is, in many ways, one of the biggest issues facing young people today,” Skiles said. “I hope this show helps raise awareness about the issue for our students, serves as part of a broader conversation about how we take care of each other and reminds students about the resources available to them both on campus and within our community.”
The complex story also provides a learning opportunity for its cast of six. “I am incredibly proud of the way our students have approached this material,” Skiles said. “They have connected with the show on a deep level and are taking necessary risks to tell this story with honesty and compassion. They aren’t just students working on a show. Rather, they’ve become a strong community of artists. I feel privileged to be part of such an open, supportive and electric rehearsal process.”
For senior Cassie Delicath, who portrays Diana, Next to Normal has universal relevance. “Mental illness, whether someone personally experiences it or someone close to them experiences it, is something that everyone needs to understand and empathize with,” Delicath said. “Next to Normal isn’t just about mental illness. It’s also about the people who are affected by those struggling with it, which makes the show unique, in my opinion. I know this production will be something I am proud of for the rest of my life.”
“Telling stories like this is necessary to break the stigma of mental illness,” according to junior Matthew Wilkinson, who plays Dan in the show. “The cast and crew have developed such a great support system, creating the light-hearted environment necessary when working on difficult material.”
In addition to Delicath and Wilkinson, the cast also features first-year students Ryan Whitford as Gabe and Jo Dearman as Natalie; sophomore Dylan Van Camp as Dr. Fine and Dr. Madden; and senior Josh Carandang as Henry.
Additional members of the creative team include Scot Buzza (Music Director), Joe Beumer (Set and Lighting Designer), Jessica Pitcairn (Costume Designer), Kevin Semancik (Sound Designer), Joe Leonard (Technical Director) and Rachael Petranek (Choreographer). The stage manager is Abby Bricking. Assistant stage managers are Christine Gallagher and Andy Girmann. The assistant directors are Lauren Davidson and Victoria Forbes.
Performances take place at 7:30 p.m. on Feb. 22 and 23 and 2:00 p.m. on Feb. 23 and 24. Tickets for Next to Normal are available now through the Xavier University Theatre Box Office. They are $18 each for adults and $13 each for students, as well as Xavier faculty and staff. To purchase tickets, visit http://www.xavier.edu/theatretickets or call