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Review: NEXT TO NORMAL at Mac-Haydn Theatre

Review: NEXT TO NORMAL at Mac-Haydn Theatre

Proof that NORMAL is Nothing More Than a Cycle on a Washing Machine

Tucked away in the town of Chatham, NY, The Mac-Haydn Theatre has been producing regional productions of Broadway Musicals for over 50 years. The theatre was founded in part to preserve musical theatre as the one individually American theatre form. As musicals are my "jam", I have seen a handful of standards there over the past few years. Mac-Haydn truly is a "hidden-gem" that presents a series of 8-10 productions each summer. Strolling between the wooden buildings on the campus, I have often thought of it as a sort of hybrid that would occur if you combined summer camp with summer-stock. They do great work, and the program attracts seasoned professionals, and up-and-coming performers, along with newbies often young and from the local area. Readers may be slightly aware of one such youngster named Joe then. He is now better known as Nathan Lane.

Review: NEXT TO NORMAL at Mac-Haydn Theatre
Beth Kirkpatrick, Eric Van Tielen,
Amber Mawande-Spytek
Photo by Ann Kielbasa

Mac-Haydn often programs tried-and-true ever popular pieces sure to generate an audience and sell tickets. This season, Artistic Director, John Saunders, who also directs NEXT TO NORMAL, is making some bold choices. Programing Urinetown between A Chorus Line and Kiss Me Kate is not what I am referring to.

NEXT TO NORMAL played over 700 shows on Broadway, was nominated for seven tony awards, won three including Best Musical. The show was a success, but there is a good possibility that if you are not a significantly committed theatre "nerd" you've never even heard of it. Its contemporary, different. and very far from the formulaic boy meets girl stories the industry has cranked out for decades. It is considered a "rock musical" the likes of Superstar or RENT.

A typical American family to the outside world, the Goodmans secretly struggle in their suburban home as they deal with the effects of their mother's worsening mental health. As they navigate their changing world, they deal with the pressing contemporary issues of trauma, loss, mental health treatment, and what it means to be a family.

Review: NEXT TO NORMAL at Mac-Haydn Theatre
Beth Kirkpatrick as Diana
Photo by Ann Kielbasa

In their promotional materials for NEXT TO NORMAL, Mac-Haydn, advised it would be "unlike anything you have seen on our stage. Trust us when we tell you, this show is not to be missed." I am very happy to say they were correct. This production is phenomenal.

The cast of six includes Beth Kirkpatrick as Diana, Eric Van Tielen as Dan, Amber Mawande-Spytek as Natalie, Kylan Ross as Gabe, Andrew Burton Kelley as Henry, and Gabe Belyeu as Dr. Madden. Each is highly skilled, well cast, and deliver near flawless performances as does the orchestra, and the creative team.

Review: NEXT TO NORMAL at Mac-Haydn Theatre
Eric Van Tielen, Kylan Ross
Photo: Ann Kielbasa

It is clear that NEXT TO NORMAL is something of a labor of love for Saunders and everyone associated with Mac-Haydn. It also appears to be an artistic highlight of the 2022 season. Prepare yourself to be overwhelmed by the raw and exhilarating reality of what it means to care for yourself, and for one another. To those who might hesitate and think that a musical centered around mental health might be too far away from "normal", I suggest that "normal" is a setting on a clothes dryer. I respectfully add: get over it, and see this phenomenal production while you can!

Regional Awards


From This Author - Marc Savitt

Marc Savitt has a life-long passion for, and association with the performing arts, particularly Musical Theatre. He has performed with choral groups in several US cities, and London, and appears on... (read more about this author)


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