CAMT’s production of “Next to Normal” captivates U of L Friday, Nov 22 2019 

By Blake Wedding —

If you happened to miss the Cardinals for the Appreciation of Musical Theatre’s (CAMT) production of “Next to Normal,” there’s only one thing I can say: I’m sorry for your loss.

CAMT brought to life a transfixing, mesmerizing experience that leaves the viewer feeling equally affected and connected by its brilliant writing, its nuanced, multi-faceted acting and its masterful direction.

“Next to Normal” is a story that has already achieved critical acclaim, but it’s the way in which CAMT reimagined this modern classic that makes it such a remarkable triumph.

This is a story about an abundance of heavy, complex themes like family dysfunction, mental illness, trauma and drug abuse.

These are themes explored with understanding and a steadfast conviction. Yet one of the key concepts many people seem to have missed is how meticulously “Next to Normal” dissects and analyzes the human condition, the essence of what makes so much of our lives so very absurd.

CAMT succeeded in bringing all of these themes to the light, and given the choice, it would be difficult for me to distinguish the CAMT’s version of “Next to Normal” from a Broadway production of the musical.

The performances of the central cast cannot be understated. The actors commanded the stage for three or more hours while acutely understanding their characters and what their stories have to say.

Jess Harris Stiller played the troubled and deeply depressed Diana. She elevated an already sympathetic character. Trent Everett Byers played her husband Dan. His performance provided a subtle and understated evaluation of the complex emotions of a conflicted man.

Clara Wilson and Geoffrey Barnes also delivered dense and complex performances as the couple’s children and helped further demonstrate the ramifications of deep family dysfunction and generational neuroses. Benjamin Horman provided necessary comic relief with the character of “Dr. Fine,” while Nicholas Long brought an endearing and charming touch to the age-old story of teenage romance.

It goes without saying that the music in CAMT’s “Next to Normal” was also excellent. Each of the actors in this production helped elevate the word “musical.” Sarah Thomas’ direction of this production cannot be understated. Her use of lighting strengthened and enriched the writing and performances. She helped orchestrate what can only be described as one of the greatest student productions to ever grace the University of Louisville.

Witnessing “Next to Normal” firsthand is one of those experiences that only comes around every so often, but once it does, it stays with you. Its an affecting, impactful story that has the potential to resonate with every person who sees it. If you get the chance to see it, you simply need to hear what this story has to say.

Graphic by Shayla Kerr // The Louisville Cardinal 

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Preview: “Next to Normal” reminds us we are not alone Sunday, Nov 17 2019 

By Blake Wedding —

Students at the University of Louisville always have a wealth of options when it comes to finding on-campus art and entertainment. This fall, the Cardinals for the Appreciation of Musical Theatre (CAMT) is offering something different for students that is both uniquely thought-provoking and thematically complex.

The CAMT’s fall production, “Next to Normal,” is a re-imagined story that nearly any and every person will be able to relate to on some level. “Next to Normal” is a powerful depiction of mental illness and how it affects those afflicted and the people around them.

This groundbreaking production asks important questions about how we face these issues, how we can learn to live with them and how we can eventually move past them to find our own path in the universe.

“Next to Normal” is a Pulitzer-Prize winning musical that explores the age-old story of family dysfunction through a new and forward-thinking lens. The plot centers around the character of Diana Goodman, the mother of this family, whom actress Jess Harris Stiller insightfully brings to life.

By extension, the CAMT’s take on “Next to Normal” features an all-star cast and production team, comprised of talent from both the University of Louisville and across Kentucky.

Director Sarah Thomas believes “Next to Normal” is an important story that will emotionally resonate with viewers. She believes it is a story that everyone can relate to in some way.

“As I’ve argued many times, people don’t go to the theatre for escape; they go for connection. To make sense of the world around them and their own lives, to be reminded that we all go through essentially the same trials, that we are not alone,” Thomas said.

Students who are interested in seeing the CAMT’s thoughtful rendition of the contemporary musical can email UofLCAMT@gmail.com to reserve seats.

Prices are $5 for students and faculty. Your last chances to see the show are Nov. 15 and 17 at 7:00 p.m. at the George J. Howe Red Barn.

Photo Courtesy / U of L CAMT

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