Westport Country Playhouse Stages Musical ‘Next to Normal’

Westport, CT – The three-time Tony Award®-winning and Pulitzer Prize-winning musical, “Next to Normal,” will open at 92 Westport Country Playhousen/a Season, from April 5 to April 24. A multiracial cast is led by Wilson Jermaine Heredia, Tony Award® winner for his portrayal of Angel in “Rent,” and Darlesia Cearcy, who played Erzulie in the Tony Award®-winning revival of “Once on This Island. “. The musical is directed and choreographed by Marcos Santana, who conducted the Playhouse production of “In the Heights” in 2019. Featuring a six-piece live orchestra, the pop/rock score is by Tom Kitt, with book and lyrics by Brian Yorkey.

“It’s a powerful musical theater piece, with a great score and absolutely amazing performers,” said Playhouse Artistic Director Mark Lamos. “By choosing ‘Next to Normal’, Marcos [Santana], director, said it would be exciting to explore how the issues presented in this music challenge communities of color as well as white families. He noted that “you just don’t hear about it as much”. Given the extraordinarily exciting artists of color eager to bring their vision, skills and voice to mainstream musicals, Marcos and I decided this would be the show to open our 2022 season.”

“Next to Normal” pushes the boundaries of contemporary musical theater with a story about the loss and endurance of a family. Dad is an architect. Mom rushes to prepare lunches and pour cereal. Their daughter and son are bright and well-behaved teenagers. They seem like a typical suburban American family. And yet, their life is anything but ordinary as the mother has struggled with mental illness for 16 years. While the mother’s struggle prevents the family from having a normal life, they hope for an “almost normal” life. The musical takes audiences inside the minds and hearts of each character, presenting their family history with love, compassion and wit. The show is appropriate for ages 14 and up; the duration is approximately two hours with a 15-minute intermission.

The diverse cast will give audiences a different perspective on the popular musical. The cast includes Darlesia Cearcy as Diana, the wife and mother. She was in Westport Country Playhouse’s “Nicolette and Aucassin” in 2000. Other credits include the Tony-winning cover of “Once on This Island”, “Shuffle Along”, “The Color Purple” and “Ragtime”. Awards on Broadway.

Wilson Jermaine Heredia will play Dan, Diana’s husband. He was in Broadway’s “Rent,” for which he won the 1996 Tony Award® for the role of Angel, as well as Drama Desk and Obie awards for best starring actor in the musical. Heredia reprized the role in London and in the 2005 film. Other credits include Broadway’s “La Cage aux Folles” opposite Harvey Fierstein; films “Tick, tick… Boom! for Netflix and “Flawless” with Robert De Niro.

Others in the cast are Daniel J. Maldonado as Gabe’s son Diana and Dan (Off-Broadway’s The Streets of New York; Regional Theater’s Newsies for which he earned a Helen Hayes nomination; Boston world premiere of ‘Moulin Rouge !The Musical”, “Grease”, “Pippin”, “The Graduate”, “Rock of Ages”, “The Who’s Tommy”); Ashley LaLonde as Natalie, Diana and Dan’s daughter (singer at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, 54 Below, Don’t Tell Mama, US Open; recent Harvard University graduate); Gian Perez as Natalie’s classmate Henry (the original cast of “Sing Street” on Broadway as Kevin; Cantor in “Night Side Songs” at ART; new album “No Love for Cowboy” ); and Katie Thompson as Dr. Madden/Dr. Fine (“Oklahoma” from Broadway as Aunt Eller; world premiere of “Renascence,” “RRRED a Secret Musical,” which she composed; other theatrical credits include “Giant”, “Big Fish”, “Pump Boys and Dinettes”).

Music composer Tom Kitt, who will be a guest at the Playhouse’s Sunday Symposium on April 10, received the Pulitzer Prize for Drama as well as two Tony Awards® for Best Score and Best Orchestration for Next to Normal”, in addition to the Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding New Score. He is also the composer of If so” (Tony appointment); “Flying above the sunset”; “High fidelity”; “Bring it on, the musical“, co-composed with Lin-Manuel Miranda; Disney’s “Freaky Friday”; “David”; and “Orphans”, among others.

Playwright and lyricist Brian Yorkey received the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, as well as the Tony Award for Best Music, for “next to normal.” It was also nominated for the Tony Award® for Best Musical and Best Book of a Musical for next to normal“, and his work on the show won him the Outer Critics Circle Award for Best Score. He associates again with the Next to normal” team on If so” (Tony Award® nominee for Best Score). Yorkey co-wrote with John Logan the libretto of The Last Boat” (Outer Critic Nomination), with a score by Sting. His musical adaptation of Horrible Friday” for Disney Theatricals toured nationally before being adapted into a Disney Channel Original Movie.

Director and choreographer Marcos Santana directed and choreographed Westport Country Playhouse’s “In the Heights” in 2019, and choreographed Playhouse’s “Man of La Mancha” in 2018. Born and raised in Puerto Rico, his Broadway credits as associate choreographer include “On Your Feet!” (Tony Award® nomination) and “Rocky” (Tony Award® nomination).

The creative team includes Emily Croome, Music Director; Adam Koch, set designer; Jennifer Caprio, costume designer; Cory Pattak, lighting designer; Domonic Sack, sound designer; Sean Sanford, Props Supervisor; Katie Ciszek, playwright; Nicole Eastwood, Behavioral Health Consultant; Tara Rubin Cast, Claire Burke, ASC, cast; and Caitlin Kellermeyer, production manager.

The production sponsor is Artistic productions by Czekaj. The corporate production sponsor is Bank of America. Additional support is provided by cthumanities. Media sponsors for the 2022 season are Moffly Media and WSHU Public Radio.

The schedule of performances is Tuesday at 7 p.m., Wednesday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m., Thursday and Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m. (no matinees on Wednesday or Saturday during preview week; no performance on Sunday Easter, April 17). Specials include Taste of Tuesday (April 5), LGBT Night Out (April 7), Post-Play Dialogues (April 7, 12, 19, 22), Opening Night (April 9), Sunday Symposium (April 10), Backstage Pass (April 20), Thursday TalkBack (April 21) and Open Captions (April 24).

Single tickets for “Next to Normal” start at $35 during previews (April 5-8) and starting on opening night April 9, tickets start at $50 and are subject to change in depending on availability. Buy early for the best prices. For more information on special offers, including discounts for students, seniors, educators, military and first responders, Indigenous peoples, professional playwrights and groups, as well as options to pay this you want and the Westport Library Pass, visit www.westportplayhouse.org/visit/box-office/.

All game titles, artists, dates and times are subject to change.

All spectators must present proof of vaccination and booster and wear a mask anytime inside Westport Country Playhouse. The Actors’ Equity Association, the union for professional actors and stage managers in the United States, requires actors to perform only in theaters where the audience wears masks. For updates on Covid-19 health and safety protocols at the Playhouse, visit https://www.westportplayhouse.org/visit/covid19safety/

For more information and to purchase tickets, visit www.westportplayhouse.org, or call the box office at (203) 227-4177, toll free at 1-888-927-7529, or visit Westport Country Playhouse, 25 Powers Court, off Route 1, Westport. Stay connected to the Playhouse on Facebook (Westport Country Playhouse), follow on Twitter (@WCPlayhouse) and on YouTube (WestportPlayhouse).

Photo: LR: “Next to Normal” cast members, front row, Daniel J. Maldonado, Gian Perez; standing, Katie Thompson, Darlesia Cearcy, Wilson Jermaine Heredia, Ashley LaLonde; and director Marcos Santana. Photo by Lauren Gatta