I think it's a message of hope. I think the message is that this is a family going through some heavy stuff. And I think a lot of families, no matter what the subject matter is, what the issue is, families go through difficult times
—Jennifer Lyon, actor
So what is "normal" anyway? That's is the question the Goodman family asks in the award-winning rock musical, Next to Normal. It's the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre's final production on the John Hirsch Mainstage.
Mom, it turns out, suffers from bipolar disorder. The production follows the family as it copes with the situation and tries to live a normal life in the midst of this disease.
But why tackle a serious topic such as mental illness through song and dance? Writer Brian Yorkey were inspired by other rock musicals like Rent and Tommy, where serious subject matter was treated with music.
"The music, because it's so different," says star Jennifer Lyon, "is not just hard rock sounds all the time. There are beautiful soaring ballads, funny songs, there are some really upbeat, happy songs, as well. And the music really helps convey the story in a terrific way."
Jennifer Lyon plays the role of Diana Goodman, Shawn Wright plays her husband Henry and Steffi DiDomenicantonio is their daughter Natalie. Peter Deiwick plays the roles of Dr. Madden and Dr.Fine, and the cast is rounded out by Liam Tobin and Jonathan Cullen. Robb Paterson directs. Music Director Bob Foster leads the ensemble of Winnipeg musicians.
"I think it's a message of hope," says Lyon. "I think the message is that this is a family going through some heavy stuff. And I think a lot of families, no matter what the subject matter is, what the issue is, families go through difficult times."
Next to Normal runs at MTC's John Hirsch Mainstage April, 19 - May 12.