Seattle-based Ila Faubion portrays Diana, a mom suffering from bipolar disorder, in “Next to Normal.” The rock musical opens Friday for a three-week run at the Port Angeles Community Playhouse.
The singer, now a director, fell in love years ago with the rock musical “Next to Normal.” Hearing its words and songs at a Village Theatre workshop in Issaquah, he never forgot the story.
More than a decade later, Mark Lorentzen and his wife, Danielle Lorentzen, have a theater company, Ghostlight Productions. This week, the pair and their crew will open “Next to Normal” for a three-week run.
In the snug Port Angeles Community Playhouse this Friday through Feb. 9, they will introduce audiences to the “Normal” family: Diana Goodman, her husband Dan and their children Gabe and Natalie. They’re like many families we know: Living lives of love and struggle. Diana suffers from bipolar disorder; Dan is determined to be the emotional rock. Gabe is a playful, bright young man while his younger sister Natalie, at 16, is trying like mad to be perfect.
“Next to Normal” is a musical that goes deep, deep into how we deal with loss, grief, illness and growing up. It’s a show “meant for everyone,” Mark Lorentzen believes.
“It features some gritty material. But for every one of those scenes, there are others that remind you of what hope looks like and what love is,” he said.
And the score. It’s one of the most unforgettable Mark has ever heard, which is saying something. Between Ghostlight and other theater companies on the Peninsula, he’s been in “Les Miserables,” “Titanic: The Musical,” “Godspell,” “South Pacific” and “Irving Berlin’s White Christmas.”
The Broadway production of “Next to Normal” won the Tony Award nine years ago for Brian Yorkey and Tom Kitt’s original score; the show then won the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. The show has since toured North America and unfolded on stages in the Philippines, Korea, Argentina, Peru, Australia, the Netherlands, Spain, Germany, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark.
In Ghostlight’s production of “Normal,” Mark is directing performers from across the region. Seattle-based Equity actress Ila Faubion portrays Diana, while Angela Poynter of Sequim, well-known for her work here, has the lead role in the Sunday matinees. Local actor Jeremy Pederson is the steadfast Dan; Mark plays the almost-adult Gabe; Sequim’s Ron Graham plays Dr. Fine and Dr. Madden, Diana’s doctors; Quinton Cornell is Natalie’s boyfriend, the philosopher-slacker Henry. Jay Rocha, also of Sequim, is stage manager while John Lorentzen, Mark’s father, is music director.
As Natalie, Danielle Lorentzen is undertaking a role both sympathetic and supremely challenging.
“It’s easy,” she began, “because I’ve been a 16-year-old girl. I know what it’s like to struggle with the pressures of everyday life as a teenager.
“Natalie goes through love, heartbreak and healing, all throughout the course of the show. And I think everyone can relate to that.
“The difficult part is letting myself as an actor feel all of these emotions of anger and pain and vulnerability … All the songs are big and passionate, so you really have to be careful not to overdo it.”
“Next to Normal” has been called the “feel-everything musical.” Actors and audience members go into the wringer together — a powerful experience, said Danielle.
“When we don’t feel, we can’t heal,” she said. “Feeling is what makes us real; makes us human.”
For Pederson, who as Dan will do almost anything to build a normal life for his family, there’s an especially affecting moment in the show: When he and Diana argue — in song — about their ways of facing grief.
The numbers “You Don’t Know” and “I Am the One” reflect “how we see and deal with things differently,” said the actor, “and sometimes we aren’t able to see the validity in another’s point of view.”
“Normal” can be dark, yet it has its rays of light and comedy, Pederson added. These provide sweet relief.
“It is a very touching human story,” he said, “and for anyone dealing with or experiencing depression or mental illness, it has a message of hope.”