BWW Blog: The Trojan Players' NEXT TO NORMAL - Another Day Part 2, 2/17
Have you ever gotten a chance to play one of your dream roles? It's thrilling. Surreal, almost. Some mornings I wake up and cannot believe that I'm really playing Gabe in Next to Normal. That may sound like hyperbole, but it's not-this show is so prestigious, and this character is so iconic. I couldn't think of a more exciting role to play on stage!
That being said, I couldn't think of a more difficult role to play on stage. Vocally, this role is a delicious nightmare. The music is so fun, energetic, and beautiful, but what it requires of the voice is insane. I consider this role to be the true test of a tenor-if you can make it through a run of the show (without severe nodes and other assorted vocal damage) then you're doing something right! I am a singer first, so usually when I get a role, I'll look at the music and knock it out of the way as soon as possible. Though I'm employing the same strategy for Next to Normal, it's taking much more time. I have to dissect my vocal placement on literally every note in the entire show to make sure I'm singing safely and beautifully!
I'm also pumped to be playing a modern-day male teenager for the first time in my entire life! Of course, as actors, our job is to apply truth to any story, despite time or place. However, we use things like accents and posture to suggest setting-so often we get accidentally caught up in playing the setting that we forget about the story. In Next to Normal, for the first time ever, I am pretty much my character. Of course, there are emotions that I've got to learn, experiences that I've never come close to having, but, on the outside, I am my character. It's going to be exciting (and a bit scary) knowing that the audience is truly seeing a teenage boy, not just seeing his make-up or hair, or dissecting his accent.
I'm also running double duty in this show-I'm the music director! It's a job I really love to do. While some people shudder at the thought of learning (or teaching) harmonies, I totally eat it up!
Now that you've met Kate and Chris, I think now would be the appropriate time to share a cool fact about our history on stage together. I first embarked on my theatre journey in the 6th grade playing Ugly in a production of Honk! Jr. Who played my parents? None other than Kate and Chris themselves! We've been a family trifecta for as long as I can remember. In fact, Chris and I are currently working on a play, Metamorphoses, in which he is playing my father again! The great thing about doing theatre with people you have performed with before is the exploration you get to do-molding your performing history into a new, fresh set of characters and relationships (or in this case, old relationships!).
The best part about Next to Normal is that everyone is doing everything. I'm playing Gabe, I'm music-directing, I'm on the costume team, and I designed the set that we're using. Everything is so inclusive! As a cast and creative team, we have all agreed to take this journey together and climb inside this beautiful show, and now each and every one of us is building it from the inside out. I cannot think of theatre in a better form than this. So collaborative, so creative, so real.
I hope you'll stay tuned with us to follow us on our production journey!
I first saw Next to Normal my freshman year of high school, and I fell in love with the music, the book, and the entire show. The characters are very 3D and complex in ways that allow the actors to dig deep into the mind of the play. When Hana first approached me about playing Natalie, I'm pretty sure I didn't even say anything-I just started dancing down the hallway singing "It's Gonna Be Good". Now that we have started rehearsals and character analysis, it's very surreal that we lucky few get to work on such a popular, well-crafted show.
Natalie is such an important character, especially for teenage girls, and I am thrilled that I have the chance to create her in my own way. I believe its important to understand that while the characters in Next to Normal have very crazy, strenuous lives, the emotions they feel are universal. Teenage girls can connect to Natalie because most understand that feeling of "I'm not good enough," and it can be very influential seeing this girl up onstage overcome her insecurities, open up, and become stronger through the course of the play. It is the classic hero's journey with a modern twist that allows the audience to connect and sympathize with Natalie, even though they may not be exactly like her. Although the show takes place over several months, the beauty of theatre (and this show) is that you can sit down for two hours and see the characters change and grow right before your eyes.
Natalie is a demanding character emotionally as well as vocally, and the bar was set very high with Jennifer Damiano and Meghann Fahy's performances. I mean, can we all just appreciate how Jennifer Damiano was on Broadway at 15? I don't even know what I accomplished at 15, but it definitely wasn't performing on Broadway. And then there is Meghann Fahy who had almost no acting training, came to New York, owned her audition and became an understudy, then a lead role, basically on her first try. Casual. I truly admire both actresses and their takes on the character, and it will be a challenge to live up to such standards; however, I'm excited to see where the rehearsal process takes me, and I look forward to finding my own Natalie along the way.
I think one of the things that will make this production of Next to Normal unique is its cast. Charlie, Kate, Hana, Nick, Julianna, both Chris's and myself are really close and we all have such a love for theatre and this show. Even though we are only in high school, we are all prepared to work our absolute hardest to succeed and make this production the best we can. Thanks for all the support and hope to see you at the shows! Maggie out.
Check back next week for a post from the Trojan Players' own Henry, Dr. Madden and Dr. Fine! Find out what's so exciting about working on this piece, and how they're making their characters different!