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L.A. Beat

New West Theatre to explore family issues in Tony Award winner “Next To Normal”

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New West Theatre is branching out with composer Tom Kitt and  playwright Brian Yorkey penned Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize winning 2008 rock musical  “Next To Normal,” which runs Sept. 8-24 at the Yates Theatre.


“It’s a Tony Award winning  musical about  the impact of mental health issues have on a  typical family. Everything seems perfect, but there is trauma that hasn’t been addressed yet,” said director Kelly Reay, who was excited to  be able to stage the production as soon as the rights for regional theatre companies became available.


Kevin Owen Clarke, Ethan Snowden and Irene  Poole rehearse Next to Normal. Photo by RichardAmery

“The characters deal with depression. But in the end they are a really strong family who love each other,” he continued.


“Dad’s an architect; Mom rushes to pack lunches and pour cereal; their daughter and son are wisecracking teens. They appear to make up the perfect nuclear family. Yet life is anything but normal when we learn that mom has been struggling wth  manic depression for the last 16 years. ‘Next to Normal’ uses powerful songs  and music to take  audiences in a heartfelt journey with  love, sympathy and heart,” according to a press release from new West Theatre.


Reay noted “Next To Normal” is a departure for the long standing theatre company, which is best known for their always popular variety shows and somewhat lighter fare rather than this darker drama which has strong language and adult themes.


“It’s a really great musical. It’s such a well written play. It won a Pulitzer Prize for the writing,” Reay said.


 “But is does have some nightly language in it,” he continued.

“We’re still going to do the other shows, but we hope to expand our audience. We’d like to build our student audience to more students and university students,” he said.

 The cast includes a couple familiar faces like Greg Wilson, and the band (music director Kathy Zaborsky, Greg Paskuski, Scott Mezzei and Keenan Pezderic) Audiences may also recognize Kevin Owen Clarke, who played Carl Perkins in “Million Dollar Quartet,” but most of the cast are new to New West Theatre.


Kevin Owen Clarke has been looking forward to being part of a production of “ Next To Normal” since he discovered it in 2010.


 He found about the auditions through  Instagram. 


 He noted his character is a lot different that Carl Perkins in New West Theatre’s 2019 production of “Million Dollar Quartet.”


“ It’s been amazing,” Clarke said.


“ He’s the boyfriend of the daughter. He’s an anxious kid. But he’s also good hearted,” he summarized, adding he was most excited to meet and bond with the cast over the past three weeks of rehearsal

Calgary actor  Sarah Irwin has also been looking forward to being part of the “Next To Normal ” since discovering it in 2010 and was also excited to meet the cast.

 Irene Poole  and Sarah Irwin rehearse Next to Normal. Photo by RichardAmery


“ It’s the best play. I’m a lot younger than the mother, so I didn’t think I’d get it, so I was really excited when I got it,” she said.


“It’s been incredible to meet the cast. We’ve become a really beautiful family,” she said, adding she hopes the s play and subject matter will resonate with audiences.

“ My favourite line in the play is at the end—‘The price of love is loss.’ And that is okay, ” she said.

“ I really hope  audiences will see that even though these people’s lives aren’t perfect, there is  can still be hope and joy,” said Kevin Owen Clarke.

“Next To Normal” runs at the Yates Theatre, Sept. 8-24. Tickets are available through  403-329 SEAT (7328), online at and in person at the ticket centres at the Yates Theatre and Enmax Centre.

— by RichardAmery, L.A. Beat Editor

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