San Jose Rep welcomes a cast of undeniable talent to the stage for the Pulitzer Prize-winning rock musical Next to Normal, directed by David Ira Goldstein and co-produced with the Arizona Theatre Company.
Next to Normal is a feel-everything musical that sheds light on the struggles of a seemingly typical family dealing with a manic-depressive mother. The performance illustrates the effect this growing illness has on the family and addresses issues such as suicide and ethics in modern psychiatry.
Leading the production in the role of Diana, a bipolar suburban mother, the riveting Kendra Kassebaum will make her San Jose Rep debut. Kassebaum is most well-known for originating the role of Glinda in the first national tour of Wicked. Additional Broadway credits include roles in Rent, Assassins, and Leap of Faith.
Joining Kassebaum on stage as Dan, Diana's husband, will be Joe Cassidy, a fellow star who has performed in six Broadway productions of his own. Mark Farrell, A. J. Holmes, Andrea Ross, and Jonathan Stew round out the cast with appearances in more than 40 theatre productions between them.
Ross, playing the role of Natalie, held the lead role as Swallow on the US national tour of Whistle Down The Wind in addition to having a solo album, Moon River, produced by Andrew Lloyd Webber. A.J. Holmes, playing Henry in the production, recently completed a national tour as well, taking on the role of Frederick Frankenstein in Young Frankenstein. Holmes is also a composer and actor for the group Team StarKid, a viral sensation with a YouTube channel boasting 140 million views.
With all the unique backgrounds and professional experience, the group has unmatched expertise. The Arizona Daily Star comments that this particular Next to Normal cast, first premiering together with the Arizona Theatre Company, "seems born to play their roles."
The creator of these unforgettable characters, playwright Brian Yorkey, first met musical composer Tom Kitt while attending Columbia University. In addition to writing Next to Normal, Yorkey is also known for the production Making Tracks, the new country musical Play It By Heart, and the musical adaptation of Ang Lee's The Wedding Banquet. Yorkey is also credited in the TV and film industry for co-creating the series Bears for the Logo network, scripting Sluts for Lionsgate Films, and writing Love Undercover for Pandemonium Films and Overture.
Tom Kitt has been a musical director and conductor on Broadway since 2002. At a glance, his credits include Debbie Does Dallas: The Musical, High Fidelity, and Bring It On in addition to many others. For the Green Day musical American Idiot, Kitt took on the roles of music supervisor, orchestrator, and musical arranger. He also lent his string arrangements to the Grammy-winning Green Day album 21st Century Breakdown and is the founder of The Tom Kitt Band.
The production of Next to Normal originally started as a ten-minute musical for a Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI) workshop. Yorkey was inspired by a Dateline news report on electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), formerly known as electroshock. Yorkey and musician Kitt collaborated on the piece, originally calling it Feeling Electric.
From there the piece grew into a full-length Broadway musical, ultimately winning Yorkey and Kitt the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. The production was also nominated for 11 Tony Awards, and won three including Best Musical Score.
"Brian Yorkey and Tom Kitt tell a story with absolutely universal resonance and truth, and tell it in a wholly fresh way," states director David Ira Goldstein. "I trust that in its honesty, beauty and energy it will both stimulate one's intellect and reach straight to the heart."