BWW Interviews: Jacqueline Martin & Graham Fleming Talk NEXT TO NORMAL at the LOT, Emotional Scenes, and Cast Chemistry
NEXT TO NORMAL is Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey`s Pulitzer Prize winning musical about Diana, a mother and wife, and how she, with her family, copes with her mental illness. With direction by Heather Braaten and musical direction by Paul Moody, The Lower Ossington Theatre is putting on a productuion of the emotional, tearjerker of a show. NEXT TO NORMAL is a show that has become iconic in the world of musical theater, and fans can now look forward to the LOT taking it on as it`s next project
The LOT`s production of the heartbreaking yet touching show will star Kylie McMahon as Diane Goodman, Mark Willet as Dan Goodman, Jacqueline Martin as Natalie Goodman, and Graham Scott Fleming as Gabe Goodman.
The show`s siblings, Natalie and Gabe took some time to talk about the emotional nature of the show, the cast`s incredible chemiostry, and what makes the LOT such an incredible experience for both cast and audience.
BWW: With NEXT TO NORMAL you are making the transition from your previous show, AVENUE Q, to a show with real people and real emotions. Is it nice to play people and not puppets this time around?
Jacqueline Martin: Well I mean, there's something interesting about having to channel your emotions, your facial expressions, and everything through a puppet on your hands. The content is really different. So, it's nice to be a human, until you have to have actual emotions. It's a little bit more complicated I think...not that puppeting isn't complicated.
Graham Fleming: I think that the biggest thing for me is [that]? the content is extremely different. They are on opposite sides of the spectrum I guess. With puppets it's all happy, campy, dancy. In this show, we`ve had two rehearsals and everyone has ended up in tears. It's a completely different show, in the best way possible.
BWW: AVENUE Q is demanding considering you have to sing, dance, operate puppets, etc. I feel that NEXT TO NORMAL is demanding in different ways. What was it like transitioning from the demands of one show to the other?
J: It's interesting because NEXT TO NORMAL is a much more organic acting process. We aren't looking at getting into the text or the meaning, we are just sitting down and speaking and reading through all things. With AVENUE Q it was, ``these are what you are going to have to master. Your going to have to be puppeting, you are going to have to be singing, you are going to have to remember these lines, and your going to have to be dancing, and then you have to do them all at the same time.`` It was more of a multi thought process versus anorganic acting, building process. [It was] more difficult, but very different in style and technique.
BWW: Jacqueline, you seem to be getting my favourite female roles. As Kate Monster, Lucy, Joanne, you tackle big show stopping numbers. Natalie is a lot more toned down and intense than your past characters. What has it been like having to tone it down and be a more soft-spoken character?
J: It's funny because I often get cast as someone who's loud and outgoing, and more character-y, so it`s been interesting, I've been working hard to find things I love about Natalie because she's not the star of the show, and she's not an attention seeker in that way. It`s been a really good exercise in listening and trying to give more energy to the cast members than what your giving to the audience. It`s such an ensemble piece that Natalie`s a small cog in the bigger workings.
BWW: Graham, Gabe is a very unique character. What has it been like diving into this complicated and unique role
G: When I was first cast in the role I wasn't quite sure how it was going to pan out. I remember the first rehearsal going into this, we were kind of up on our feet. We weren't really working with the material, more character work I guess. We were walking around and our director said, ``Now, don't notice Gabe`` - as in me. ``Don't notice him, and just walk around and see how that feels.`` It's very strange for me because, like Jackie, I'm normally cast as the big energetic role. I``m also a huge attention seeker in real life (laughs) so playing this role where no body notices me, it's scary. It's real, it's fun, and it's something I'm very looking forward to. Also, Gabe is normally played as this, our director said,``demonic character,`` who is always trying to pull the mom into this other world. In this rehearsal process, we are finding Gabe also sympathizes towards the other characters, and kind of wants his family to be happy. So, we are finding different routes with Gabe, which I'm excited about.