October 10, 2014

BY TERI CAMPBELL
Logan Media Services

CARTERVILLE - John A. Logan College will present the southern Illinois premiere of the Pulitzer Prize- and Tony Award-winning rock musical “Next to Normal.”  The show explores a suburban mother’s struggle with worsening bipolar disorder and the effect her illness has on her family, addressing such issues as mental illness, suicide, and drug abuse.    

Two evening performances are set for Friday, Oct. 17 and Saturday, Oct. 18 at 7 p.m. and an afternoon performance will be on Sunday, Oct. 19 at 2 p.m.  They will be held in Logan’s O’Neil Auditorium.  Tickets for the shows are $12 for general admission and $7 for JALC students.  

Tim Robinson of Carterville, a Logan and Southern Illinois University music and theater alum, is directing the show. 

“‘Next to Normal’ isn’t your typical feel-good musical because it deals with issues like depression and mental illness in a contemporary setting,” Robinson said.  “When it first debuted, the New York Times called it a ‘feel-everything’ musical.  I think that’s a good description.  The storyline and music are wonderful and very moving.  It won the Tony Award for Best Musical Score, and it’s a really powerful show.” 

Robinson said the musical has a strong cast. 

“I feel so fortunate to be working with such a great group of performers,” Robinson said.  “There are only seven characters in the show so each actor is playing a really significant role.  Most of them have a lot of experience on stage and they are all very talented.  I’ve worked with some of them in past productions, and it’s been a treat to get back together with them.”                

Nathan Arnett, a music instructor at JALC, is one of the actors who has worked with Robinson before.

“Tim and I both went to school at Logan in 1994 and ’95, and we worked on productions together back then,” Arnett said.  “In fact, most of the people involved in this show are either current Logan students or Logan graduates.  That has made this collaboration so much fun.  It’s a real home-grown production.” 

Arnett said the character he plays is a challenge. 

“I play Dan Goodman, a husband and father whose wife is dealing with depression,” he said.  “It’s a darker role than I normally play.  For many years I’ve played comedic roles in musicals.  This was an opportunity to play a dramatic role, and I’m loving every minute of it.” 

Herrin resident Diane Taveau, a veteran actor and performer, is also in the show. 

“The character I play is Diana Goodman, a woman suffering with bipolar disorder depression,” Taveau said.  “The role can be emotionally draining because her emotions go from mania to acute depression, but it’s also very rewarding.  This is a part I’ve wanted to play since I was introduced to this show a year and a half ago.” 

Taveau believes people will relate to the characters.  

“It’s different than a lot of musicals, but it deals with important real-life situations,” she said.  “Not every family has to deal with mental illness, but everyone has situations and issues they have trouble coping with.  I think audiences will relate to the compelling story and family dynamics.”

Arnett hopes the show draws a large audience. 

“This musical has never been performed in our region so this is perhaps the first opportunity many people will have to see it performed live on stage,” Arnett said.  “I hope they will come to see it.  It does have adult content and adult language so it’s not for children, but I think mature audiences will enjoy it.”

For more information about “Next to Normal” or to obtain advance tickets, contact the Office of Student Activities and Cultural Events at JALC at 618-985-2828 or 618-457-7676, Ext. 8287.