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Theatre Cedar Rapids musical raises mental health awareness

Theatre review

By Chris Hanian
On March 2, 2016

“Next to Normal” is a contemporary musical by Theatre Cedar Rapids about a family dealing with mental health issues. It also features Kirkwood student Nikki Stewart who is currently getting her degree for vocal.

It’s a tight nit ensemble that displays the communication and other key events of a dysfunctional family simply trying to coup with the musings of mental unstableness. It even gets to the point where the daughter Natalie, played by student Stewart, has a breakdown and starts using her mother’s medication to go out and party after failing a recital that her mother didn’t attend.

It raises many questions about what happens with certain mental disorders and how to handle them as a family. Looking at it as not just a form of theatre but as a learning experience the show only has good statements to make on how to deal with the situations at hand. Throughout the show the mother gets progressively worse and the father comes to ignore the circumstances and pushes her into further procedures, medication and therapy while simply ignoring the process and factors of what effects these have on everyone else around them. It comes to a point where the audience asks, “What can they do to fix it?” This leads throughout the musical of each person who struggles with their mental instability and how it doesn’t get any focus.

Throughout the show it’s overshadowed by the mother who has been suffering for 16 years with manic depression with schizophrenia. It gets to the point where she sees her dead son, who died as a baby, as an 18-year-old boy. This negligence adds fuel to the flame of everyone else’s despair and causes her to ignore those around her, and in turn causes them to go down the wrong path for her treatment.  Overall the statement is excellent because it’s telling you this isn’t something to push under the rug or even pressure someone into getting a certain treatment.

This is something that can affect a whole family and throughout can end up hurting everyone around and causing severe stress and other mental issues as well for anyone around. Before and after the show the crew had a talk back with Four Oaks, a success center for family and children. They had a quick talk on how to raise a family successfully and in a healthy environment.

“Next to Normal” is an eye-opening show that can help people see the true struggles of depression and mental disorders. It is not simply a struggle for the one afflicted but those around them as well. 

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