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Get to 'Normal' at Zachary Scott Theatre

By by dianna wray/dwray@vicad.com
Feb. 1, 2012 at 3 p.m.
Updated Jan. 31, 2012 at 8:01 p.m.


IF YOU GO

WHAT: "Next to Normal"WHEN: Through March 4WHERE: Zachary Scott Theatre, 1510 Toomey Road, AustinINFO: zachtheatre.org

WHAT: "Wicked"WHEN: Through Feb. 12WHERE: Bass Concert Hall, 2350 Robert Dedman Drive, AustinCOST: $38.50-$165 INFO: texasperformingarts.org

WHAT: "Tutankhamun: The Golden King and the Great Pharaohs"WHEN: Through April 15WHERE: The Houston Museum of Fine Arts, Caroline Weiss Building, 1001 Bissonet St., HoustonCOST: $33 for adults; $18 for childrenINFO: vmfah.org

The rock musical has come a long way from the days of "Hair" and "Phantom of the Opera." Two years ago, "Next to Normal," a show about the impact a mother with a bipolar disorder has on her family, rocked its way to a Pulitzer Prize.

Anyone who has ever dealt with mental illness knows how hard it can be just to get out of bed and face another day locked in battle with your own mind. If you've loved someone with mental illness, you've watched them suffer, and been on the rack as well, unable to cross some invisible border and sweep in to rescue them.

In "Next to Normal," Diana has been struggling with a bipolar disorder - complete with visions of her dead son - for 16 years. The show depicts what it is like to live with someone going through that kind of illness, and what it feels like to try and survive it for her.

The Tony award-winning musical was the first show also to collect a Pulitzer since "Rent" hit the scene in 1996. Like the 1990's era hit, "Next to Normal" won because it managed to break new ground through honest depictions of mental illness, grief, suicide and the complexity of treatment and recovery.

Also, it has some really great songs. I mean, seriously, there are great tunes like "I Miss the Mountains," a number where Diana admits she misses both the high highs and the low lows that come with being bipolar. "Superman and the Invisible Girl" is another great one as Diana's daughter, Natalie, tells of feeling forgotten and overshadowed by her dead brother.

I know this all sounds kind of depressing, but I'm not spoiling the ending by reassuring you that they get to the other side by the time the curtain drops. If you have a hankering for some good theater, you should definitely check out the Zachary Scott Theatre production of the show in Austin. It runs through March 4.

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