Producers Six Foot Something and The Factory are presenting the Adelaide premiere of Next to Normal this week. The multi-award winning musical is being rolled out by various companies around Australia after huge success on Broadway in 2009/2010 (including the book receiving rare recognition of the Pulitzer Prize – only one of eight musicals to ever have received the award).
The non-replica production is a rock musical which follows the life of a suburban mother dealing with a worsening bipolar disorder. The piece examines how her condition and its treatment (including psychoactive drugs and electroconvulsive therapy) affect her family as they try to take care of themselves and each other.
Unique to this particular production is the partnership with the Mental Illness Fellowship of South Australia (MIFSA), donating $1 from every ticket sold to support the work delivered to the community and raise awareness of MIFSA and their services offered. The lifetime risk for suicide for people with bipolar disorder is 15%, representing 12% of all Australian suicides (source: The Black Dog Institute). Director and designer, David Lampard says, “Next to Normal is dramatic, mold smashing theatre that deals with serious mental health issues”.
The pivotal role of Diana is played by Rosanne Hosking who delves into the complexities of the piece and her character, bringing as much reality to her performance as possible. “The ‘realness’ of this production has been an important factor for all of us. There is nothing frothy or fake about this show. Even when we delve into the lighter and more humerous parts of the show (yes, there are funny bits!) I believe they tell the truth,” says Rosanne.
When asked how she would describe the production, Rosanne says “have you ever been to a movie and found yourself still thinking about it days later? Next to Normal has the power to do the same thing… it is thought provoking, moving and beautifully honest.”
Rosanne is faced both with the prospect of dealing with serious issues like mental illness, depression, suicide and drug use as well as playing a role that was played by the iconic and Tony-award-winning Alice Ripley. However, in making the role her own, Rosanne has found a way to identify with the complex character, “finding the skills and coping mechanisms we need to handle all that life sends our way can sometimes be a real challenge. The line between coping and not coping is much finer than we think and it’s during these challenging times that we often experience our fragility as human beings.”
Joining Rosanne are Paul Talbot, Emma Bargery, Mitchell Sanfillipo, Scott Reynolds and Rod Schultz. Mitchell Sanfillipo has travelled to Adelaide to play the “perfect son” Gabe.
A recent graduate from the University of Ballarat Arts Academy majoring in Musical Theatre, Mitchell believes this is a dream role that is worth the temporary move to Adelaide.
“I’ve always wanted my work to incorporate travel, so it has been an absolute treat to come interstate to perform and branch out from the Melbourne crowd,” notes Mitchell.
As the youngest of three boys in his family, Mitchell can identify with Gabe’s energy and is used to getting his own way as the apple of his mother’s eye.
“The show does touch on very real issues and mental illness is something that I think many people have dealt with at some point in their life… underneath though, the show is really about a family and a “normal” life, but what is considered normal nowadays?”
“The cast all get along really well and we’ve become a bit like a real life family. We’ve even been out for a few family dinners. Paul Talbot, who plays my father would have to take the cake for method acting though, with all of his dad jokes,” laughs Mitchell.
The multi-award winning production team includes Director and Designer, David Lampard, Musical Director, Peter Johns, and Lighting Designer, Daniel Barber.
Next to Normal is playing at the Opera Studio, Netley from 9 – 26 May. Tickets are available online at www.next2normal.com.au or through BASS on 131 246.