Theater preview: UVU brings 'agonizingly beautiful' story of 'Next to Normal' to the stage

Published: Saturday, Nov. 2 2013 2:00 p.m. MDT

Jacquelyne Jones as Diana Goodman, Topher Rasmussen as Gabe Goodman and Benjamin James Henderson as Dan Goodman in the UVU production of Next to Normal.

Jesca Cluff

OREM — The Goodmans are “the perfect loving family, so adoring,” sings Diana, the devoted wife and loving mother of two children, in “Just Another Day.”

Yet her world is crumbling around her. Through the lens of this average suburban housewife, “Next to Normal” tells an unflinching and authentic story: The Goodman family is confronting Diana’s emerging mental disorder.

“Diana wants so desperately to be stable and in control of her life, but she struggles with how to achieve that and maintain independence,” says Jacquelyne Jones, who plays the lead role in the Utah Valley University production. “She constantly rides the line of breaking into pieces and maintaining a facade of togetherness because she is fighting for some kind of normalcy.”

“Next to Normal” is one of Broadway’s biggest modern hits, running almost two years and nominated for 11 Tony awards and winning three. The musical also earned the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, the first musical to win since 1996.

With soaring melodies and an indie rock score, “Next to Normal” employs the full power of musical theater to tell a transcendent story that is ultimately equal parts uplifting and shattering. In its review of the New York production, Entertainment Weekly called the musical “agonizingly beautiful.”

Identifying that Diana is “without a doubt, the hardest character I have been asked to play,” the experienced actress is buoyed by the support of director David Tinney and music director Rob Moffat as she plays the emotionally arduous role.

“They both have such an amazing ability to bring a script and score to life, and they work so well with one another that sometimes you think you’re watching a dance,” she explains. “They’re both incredible storytellers and immensely talented in their own right.”

Jones is “also learning so much from my fellow cast mates. They bring such grounded and emotionally charged elements into every scene that I’m honestly blown away at times.”

The story of “Next to Normal” is intense, affecting and ultimately hopeful as the Goodman family comes to terms with its past and bravely begins to face its future.

“Each character in the show is so beautifully developed and paints a sometimes painfully accurate picture of how mental illness affects everyone, not just the individual who possesses one,” Jones says. “Diana’s story is an important one, but it’s only a fraction of what you’ll see.”

Through developing her character in “Next to Normal,” Jones has learned the importance of “shedding light on darkness.”

“When we hide things that we think make us weak, we only give those things more power,” she says. “There is strength in truth and honesty. There is strength in light. I feel that this is the most important message we could give to our community. The show will undoubtedly change the way you perceive mental illness and will hopefully encourage those who are struggling to find some light of their own.”

Note: The UVU production uses an official version the play that was edited by the authors for content.

If you go

What: “Next to Normal”

Where: UVU’s Noorda Theatre

When: Nov. 7-23

How much: $10-$12

Tickets: uvu.edu/arts or 801-863-7529

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