Speakeysie News Desk – January 3, 2022
Cobb PARKS and the Jennie T. Anderson Theatre are teaming with the Atlanta Lyric Theatre to bring their 2022 hit, NEXT TO NORMAL, back to the stage. “The whiplash we received from NEXT TO NORMAL was unlike any other show we’ve produced in our series. To this day, patrons continue to email and call us asking to bring it back,” says Jono Davis, producing artistic director of the Jennie T. Anderson Theatre.
When NEXT TO NORMAL hit the Jennie T. Anderson Theatre stage for two sold out performances in July 2022, ideas and dreams began swirling to somehow remount the production and provide the community another swing at the show and, this time, have more than two performances. When the Atlanta Lyric Theatre rebooted their current 42nd season, this allowed the two companies a chance for NEXT TO NORMAL to return for ten performances and carry the exact same production mounted last summer.
The musical centers around Diana, a mother struggling with bipolar depression. Diana’s mental health causes ripples with her family and the show explores the ways each member is affected by these struggles. “You tend to find yourself in this show,” says Golbanoo Setayesh who portrays Natalie, Diana’s daughter. “It’s the story of a family who at first glance seems so ‘normal’ but when we learn each member is fighting mental illnesses that are so rarely presented onstage, it is such a raw experience that makes you feel really vulnerable. It’s almost cleansing in that way.”
“We had such a positive response to the first time that we produced this show,” adds director Amanda Wansa Morgan. “I spoke to people in the lobby who told me stories of how they were impacted by mental illness or their loved one was, and how much this show moved them. The cast does such a fantastic job of bringing themselves to the piece with authenticity, vulnerability, and powerful energy, as does the band.”
Brian Wittenberg returns as everyone’s favorite stoner boyfriend, Henry. “When we did NEXT TO NORMAL in July, we all knew that this beautiful show was lightning in a bottle, an experience that none of us would soon forget. But only a small portion of the Atlanta community was able to see the extremely limited engagement. Now, this incredible cast and creative team are able to come together again to pour ourselves back into this powerful story of connection, coping with loss, and finding oneself through mental illness and give a much larger audience the chance to experience this cathartic, once (or twice)-in-a-lifetime evening at the theatre.”
NEXT TO NORMAL stars Mary Nye Bennett as Diana and Taylor Buice* as Dan. The ensemble cast is filled with Atlanta favorites: Kayce Denise, Golbanoo Setayesh, Brian Wittenberg, and Jacob Ryan Smith. This concert-staging is directed by Amanda Wansa Morgan, co-music directed by John-Michael D’Haviland and Holt McCarley, production managed by Bobby Johnston, stage managed by Jackie Lenz, assistant stage managed by Savannah Rootes, costumes designed by Cole Spivia, properties by Amanda Wansa Morgan, Taylor Buice, and Jono Davis, lighting designed by Michael Carver, and sound designed by Bobby Johnston