BWW Interviews: Chatting with the Youth of Toronto's NEXT TO NORMAL

Next to Normal is a Pulitzer Prize winning musical that deals with love, loss, grief, mental illness and overcoming the hard obstacles many of us face in our lives. Last seen in Toronto this past summer, Clearwater Theatre is putting on a regional production this week at The Tarragon Theatre. BWW sat down to speak with the six person cast about what the show means to them, and why they think people should see it.

The six person cast performs in the intimate space with a live band and without mics, adding to the intense feel of the material. Our interview is divided into two parts, the 'grown-ups' and the 'kids' of the story. Today we're finishing up by speaking with the 'youth' of the production, Sara Farb who plays Natalie, James Daly who plays Gabe and Andre Morin who plays Henry. We also speak with director Kate Stevenson.



Sara Farb

What's your name and who do you play?
 
Sara Farb and I play Natalie.
 
What's your favourite song in the show and what do you think is the overall message behind the production?
 
My favourite song is Make Up Your Mind/Catch Me I'm Falling.  The overall message behind the production is that no matter how together any of us may seem, we all have reasons to need others.  There's no such thing as complete emotional independence.
 
What would you say is the number one reason to come out and see the show?
 
It provides the rare opportunity to experience a musical that so elegantly and honestly deals with a topic that touches so many of us, yet that so many of us know very little about.  It also happens to be performed by very strong singing actors, which makes the story all the more moving and clear.
 
 
What's your name and who do you play?
 
My name is James Daly and I play Gabe.
 
What's your favourite song in the show and what do you think is the overall message behind the production?
 
My favourite song that I sing is probably "I'm Alive (reprise)" because there is so much power and emotion that suddenly explodes from the entire cast on stage. However I also really love the song "Maybe" which Diana sings with Natalie. In this song Diana connects to Natalie for the first time and they decide that a life that's "Next to Normal" is perfect for them. And I think that is the overall message behind the production. There is no perfect family or relationship because perfect doesn't exist. So next to normal is the most normal thing out there. All we can do is live with what we have, remember what we've lost and keep fighting for who we love.
 
What would you say is the number one reason to come out and see the show?
 
I think the number one reason to come out and see the show is that if you've seen "Next to Normal" you've never seen it like this. This production is very raw, it is up-close and personal. Using no microphones, a bare set and an intimate space, you get to hear everyones natural voice and really see the pain on everyones face. You will feel like you're inside the house with the family and you will be very moved by the production.
 
ANDRE MORIN

What's your name and who do you play?

My name is Andre Morin and I play Henry.

What's your favourite song in the show and what do you think is the overall message behind the production?

My favourite number in the show is Catch Me I'm Falling, the harmonies are so beautiful and the storytelling is really strong. The overall message behind the production? That's a hard one. I honestly think that the show is rich enough to sustain a variety of interpretations, but if I had to pin it down I would say the message is self discovery.

What would you say is the number one reason to come out and see the show?

I think this show has the potential to resonate with everyone who sees it in a very personal way. You get to go on a powerful journey with these people, and the relatively small venue only amplifies that. The audiences so far have commented on how touched they felt having seen it.

KATE STEVENSON

What's your name and who do you play?

My name is Kate Stevenson and I directed this production of NEXT TO NORMAL and am also the Artistic Director of Clearwater Theatre.

What's your favourite song in the show and what do you think is the overall message behind the production?

Different songs are my favourites for different reasons. I love the way that the show starts "normal" in Realism and then at different points slides into Expressionism as we experience what Diana is experiencing. For that reason I love songs like My Psychophamacologist and Doctor Rock (a scene that makes people laugh out loud at every show). At the other end of the spectrum, I love 'Make Up Your Mind/Catch Me I'm Falling' which has been blocked in a way that all the characters overlap with each other in the same space both vocally and physically and I think it's very interesting what the cast does with it. When Sara Farb comes in to start the finale "Light" at the end of the show I am always brought to tears, and then the song transitions into having 6 of the most powerful and extraordinary voices singing mere feet away from the audience in stunning harmonies is like nothing I"ve ever experienced in a theatre before. During rehearsals, that scene would leave me breathless... actually it still does.

I believe that the overall message of the production is that there is no such thing as 'normal'. Grief, loss and the struggle for wellness, the struggle to know how to love and take care of each other- these things are normal.

What would you say is the number one reason to come out and see the show?

People are profoundly moved by this show. They feel connected to it. Audiences sit in their seats wiping their eyes. One audience member told me they just needed a moment to reflect and process what they'd just experienced. NEXT TO NORMAL addresses important and stigmatized issues around mental health, but I believe that it will resonate with anyone who has experienced loss or trauma or any family crisis. I saw it on broadway and loved it and I couldn't stop thinking about it afterwards. The one thing that struck me was that at it's core, it's a show with 6 people. As I was straining to see the actors faces from the back row, I wondered what it would be like to see it in an intimate space. Instead of giant sets, giant lighting, giant volume, the raw and powerful intensity of the show would come from experiencing what this family was experiencing feet away.

I knew in order to pull it off, I needed to find great actors who would be able to sing the challenging score, but who also could 'just be'- actors who could sing but who would truthfully be able to experience the show moment by moment. We have cast (in my opinion) the perfect ensemble of 6.

Many people were skeptical about me trying to do a rock musical without microphones in a tiny room, but Rob Pittman our MD has done a fantastic job mixing the instruments and the voices soar. The result has been beyond what I hoped or imagined. I'm so proud of our cast, musicians and of our version of this groundbreaking show.

When and Where?

Next to Normal, on now until June 17th at Tarragon Theatre.

Tickets are $25 for general admission, $20 for students, seniors and arts workers and can be purchased in person at the box office, by phone at 416-531-1827 or online at http://tickets.tarragontheatre.com.

$12 rush tickets are available for Friday night and Sunday matinee performances.

Photo credit: Kelsi Rix



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From This Author Kelly Cameron

Kelly Cameron's love affair with the theatre began when she was just five years old, on an outing to see the Original Canadian Cast of (read more...)

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