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Next to Normal at Melville Theatre

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Multi-award-winning musical tackles mental illness
Next to Normal, Melville Theatre, musical, mental health, play, performing arts, bipolar, mental illness, Tony Award, Pulitzer Prize
Mitchell Lawrence, left, Oliver Clare, Georgia McGivern, Daniel Burton, Lincoln Tapping and Elethea Sartorelli are appearing in the musical Next to Normal.


A musical about mental health is making its way to Melville Theatre. Written by Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey and directed by Craig Griffen, Next to Normal focuses on a mother struggling with worsening bipolar disorder and the effects managing her illness has on her family.

Diana Goodman has tried to balance sanity, happiness and her commitments over the past 16 years but her disorder takes a turn for the worst and her husband, children and doctor try to help her through the struggle. The show takes audiences into the minds and hearts of each character, presenting the family's story with love, sympathy and heart.

Next to Normal has three Tony Awards and a Pulitzer Prize to its credit and was named one of the year's 10 best shows by US critics on its debut.

"It's a rare production that isn't afraid to tackle heavy themes," Craig said. "While we're certainly much more willing to discuss mental illness now than 10 years ago, it's definitely something we still need to keep pushing out into the open, shine a light on and sweep away social judgments that leave so many ill people without care.

"I have a personal connection to the subject I was diagnosed with a both a depressive and anxiety disorder 11 years ago and it's still something I struggle with and seek help for to this day. I wanted to have the opportunity to put some of my personal experience onto the stage in a piece that wasn't afraid to go to the dark places these issues can take us."

Next to Normal, Melville Theatre, musical, mental health, play, performing arts, bipolar, mental illness, Tony Award, Pulitzer Prize
Oliver Clare, plays Henry and Georgia McGivern is Natalie in the musical Next to Normal.


Involved in theatre from age 10, Craig first appeared on stage in WA in Hairspray and The Wizard of Oz at the Koorliny Arts Centre and was named "best other than a lead male in a musical" for both roles at the annual Finley Awards. He has worked as a director, production designer, producer and behind the scenes for Fresh Bred Productions on Closer, The Last Five Years, Spring Awakening and Sweeney Todd.

In 2018, Craig directed and designed Urinetown at Melville Theatre, scoring six Finley Awards including best musical, best set and best director of a musical. Last year, he picked up several nominations and the technical achievement award for his work as director, designer and puppet-builder on The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe at the Koorliny Arts Centre.

"With Next to Normal, the subject matter is obviously a difficult thing to handle," Craig said."Coming into it with my personal experiences, working on the show naturally brings up a lot of difficult emotions for me. Navigating those emotions and re-directing them into the work is a tough thing to do.

"Next to Normal is also a very intense show for the cast they have to go to some dark places throughout the show, all while singing a non-stop score with a rock band playing along with them. Supporting them through that is really one of my biggest roles while directing the show."

Next to Normal, Melville Theatre, musical, mental health, play, performing arts, bipolar, mental illness, Tony Award, Pulitzer Prize
Next to Normal features Lincoln Tapping, left, as Gabe and Elethea Sartorelli as Diana.


Elethea Sartorelli plays Diana. "She is a sharp and witty woman, struggling with worsening bipolar disorder and the impact it has on her family," Elethea said. "Her scenes are extremely complex with her fluctuating emotions and mental stability.

"It's a challenge to make sure I'm hitting the arc of her mental health struggles appropriately while also making sure she's fully formed and not two-dimensional. Diana's journey is extremely important and I want to play it respectfully."

Involved in theatre from age 11, Elethea started her journey in Perth and went on to perform in Sydney and Melbourne. While in Victoria, she appeared in the Australian premiere of Bare: a pop opera and scored a Theatre People's Choice Award for best actress in a musical.

Next to Normal, Melville Theatre, musical, mental health, play, performing arts, bipolar, mental illness, Tony Award, Pulitzer Prize
Georgia McGivern, left, Daniel Burton and Elethea Sartorelli are taking to the stage in Next to Normal, a musical about mental health.


Since returning to the west, Elethea has received Finley Award nominations for roles in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Crimes of the Heart and Chicago and took out best supporting actress in a musical for Xanadu.

"Next to Normal appealed because the role is so incredibly challenging and the story is an important one to me, especially as we have become more aware of mental health and the treatments for disorders over the past decade or so," she said.

"I was also keen to work with director Craig Griffen again after working with him on Sweeney Todd."

Next to Normal plays at 8pm August 21, 22, 27, 28, 29, September 3, 4 and 5 with a 2pm matinee August 30. Tickets are $30, $25 concession book at www.TAZTix.com.au or call TAZTix on 9255 3336. Melville Theatre is at 393A Canning Highway (corner of Stock Road), Palmyra.

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Why? Brave and breathtaking, Next to Normal is a musical that takes risks and delivers on all fronts with nuance and tenderness, striking a chord with anyone sharing in the struggles of mental health.
When: 8pm August 21, 22, 27, 28, 29, September 3, 4 & 5; 2pm August 30
Phone: 9255 3336
Where: Melville Theatre, corner of Stock Road and Canning Highway, Palmyra
Cost: $30, $25 concession
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