"Next to Normal" tackles bipolar disorder

Thursday, January 22, 2015

It used to be a well-kept secret.

In recent years, celebrities such as Catherine Zeta-Jones, Russell Brand, and Demi Lovato came out as having it.

Television’s “Homeland” and Hollywood’s “Silver Linings Playbook” dealt with it and approximately 5.7 million Americans cope with it, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.

Bipolar disorder is a mental illness with radical emotional changes and mood swings, including restless highs and listless lows.

Broadway theatrically broached the taboo subject first, in 2008, with “Next to Normal” and won a Pulitzer Prize.

The rock musical opens for three shows this weekend at The Lyric Theatre in Stuart.

“Next to Normal” tells the story of a mother who struggles with worsening bipolar disorder and the damage it does to her family. The powerful musical addresses the ethics of modern psychiatry, grief, drug abuse and suicide.

Ethel Christin, President of the board of directors of The Lyric Theatre, saw the show on Broadway in 2009.

“I was determined to see our version on stage,” Christin said. “I don’t push shows unless (they’re) phenomenal. This show is phenomenal. It’s just brilliant.”

It is the second time the historic theater will host the impactful show. It was coproduced in 2013 by Curtain Call Productions and The Lyric Theatre to rave reviews. Scripps Treasure Coast Newspapers received a few letters to the editor lauding the show and cast.

All but one member of that cast is back to reprise their roles in the powerful drama.

“We knew we had only scratched the surface last time,” said director Jared E. Walker. “This time the cast has two more years of life experience to bring to their roles.”

Karin Leone, who has starred in more than 40 productions, takes on the challenging lead role of the mother for the second time.

“I’ve never been so emotionally impacted by a role,” Leone said. “It’s so powerful and relatable. Every family has some sort of dysfunction and as a society we are starting to share our secrets.”

The rich drama, powered by a six-piece rock band with contemporary music and provocative lyrics, has some light moments but you will not leave the theater humming a happy tune. Instead, you will take home lots of food for thought and perhaps a little more understanding.

“How are you feeling?” can be a loaded question.

“Next to Normal”

When: 7 p.m. Jan. 23 and 4 and 7 p.m. Jan. 24

Where: The Lyric Theatre, 59 S.W. Flagler Ave., Stuart

Cost: $45

Tickets: 772-286-7827 or www.lyrictheatre.com