Broadway Musical NEXT TO NORMAL To Play Monongalia Arts Center

The Monongalia Arts Center is hosting 2010 Pulitzer Prize and 2009 Tony-winning musical "Next to Normal" from Nov. 1-12. The musical tells a story of a family that is dealing with the effects of mental illness.

Kevin Dean, director, producer and actor in the musical, said the story focuses on a mother who struggles with bipolar disorder and the effects that her illness and its management have had on her family. The musical also touches on grief, stigma, drug abuse, ethics in modern psychiatry and the underbelly of suburban life.

"It's real life," he said. "It's very intimate, and it's designed to draw the audience right into the visual of the production. It is really going to play incredibly well." Dean, who is playing Dan Goodman, the father of the show's family, said the production also helps shed light on how mental illness is viewed. "My personal bent is that the stigma is much less than what it used to be, but there is still one there," Dean said. "People continue to avoid seeking help and telling about their problems and people tend to misjudge people who suffer. "This show frames these problems in the context of an average American family," he said.

Dean said that darkness and light are a big motif. He also put the focus on what he said is a compelling emotional score with 37 musical numbers that will keep the audience engaged from the get-go as the story progresses. "There will be tears and laughter throughout the show, but they are going to leave optimistic about life," he said. "I hope the audience walks away with a new sense of empathy for one another." Dean said the cast he's worked with is stellar, and he is excited to bring this piece of musical theater to a Morgantown stage.

"The MAC prides itself on providing quality and cutting-edge programming to the community," Monongalia Arts Center Executive Director Ro Brooks said in a press release. "And, we are thrilled to be bringing this unique and moving show to life in the Tanner Theater." "Next to Normal" will premier at the Monongalia Arts Center's Tanner Theater at 8 p.m. Nov. 1-3 and Nov. 8-10 and at 2 p.m. Nov. 4. Dean mentioned that due to the subject matter, viewer discretion is advised. Tickets for the event are $15 and can be purchased at the Monongalia Arts Center's lobby desk, by calling 304-292-3325 or online at www.monartscenter.com/shop.

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