Tuesday, October 4, 2011

It’s a mad world

BY SAM L. MARCELO, Senior Reporter
Original Article can be found HERE

Next to Normal
Presented by Atlantis Productions

BIPOLAR DISORDER, drug abuse, suicide. On paper, Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey’s Next to Normal seems like it wants to leave its audience a depressed mess of tears. "It’s been described as a ‘feel-everything’ musical and I couldn’t agree more," said Bobby Garcia, who is directing the rock musical. "I think everyone who sees it will respond differently depending on their own circumstances in life. Ultimately, it ends with hope and the possibility of change."

For the Manila staging of Next to Normal -- also the show’s first licensed English language production outside the United States -- Atlantis Productions assembled a dream cast headed by Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo as Dianna Goodman, a woman struggling with mental illness.

"It’s a very demanding, very emotional role," said Ms. Lauchengco-Yulo, who has been reading up on bipolar disorder. "I cannot claim to totally understand it, but I certainly have a great respect now for people who are bipolar. I just need to be focused and let the songs, which are almost all emotionally driven, affect me while I’m on stage. What’s so great about a role like this is that you really have to forget who Menchu is and find Diana."

She caught it twice on Broadway without having any idea what the story was about. She was lucky to catch Alice Ripley, who won a Tony Award for her turn as Diana, on one of those times. "It just blew me away," Ms. Lauchengco-Yulo remembered, adding that a story about a family -- a mother, father, daughter and son -- was something that anyone would be able to understand. "It will change how you see life."

Joining Ms. Lauchengco-Yulo are Jett Pangan, Felix Rivera, Bea Garcia, Jake Macapagal, and Markki Stroem. "I couldn’t imagine doing this show with anyone else," said Mr. Garcia, who had nothing but praise for his leads. He described Ms. Lauchengco-Yulo’s Diana as "a creation of breathtaking power and devastation" and Mr. Pangan’s Dan as "raw with emotion."

The director, who considers Next to Normal as one the most rewarding creative processes in his career, said that eclectic rock musical plays like an Indie film. "It is an extremely personal piece of musical theater; that’s where its power lies. Despite -- or because of -- its intimate nature, it has captured the hearts of audiences who have come to see it."

While it isn’t a glitzy Broadway musical with big production numbers, Next to Normal earned the 2009 Tony Award for Best Score and the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. The last time a rock musical won the latter was in 1996, when Jonathan Larson’s Rent took home the honor.

In an interview with Playbill.com, Mr. Kitt said that "Without Rent and Stephen Sondheim, there is no Next to Normal." Incidentally, the opening run of Next to Normal follows another theater company’s staging of Rent. Other symmetries: Michael Grief directed the original productions of Rent and Next to Normal; Mr. Garcia, meanwhile, directed the first Manila and Singapore productions of Rent in 1999 and is now taking on Next to Normal.

"I think Rent inspired a lot of musical theater collaborators to create musicals that were personal and powerful," said Mr. Garcia. " Rent showed us what the future of musical theater would be like and I think Next to Normal once again reminds us of this. It deals with themes that have never been dealt with before."

He continued that Next to Normal is a work of genius collaboration. "It has a full understanding of the evolution of musicals and where they need to head towards" he said. The production is, in a word, "extraordinary."

Catch Atlantis Productions' NEXT TO NORMAL (THE REPEAT)
on October 15, 2011 / Sat / 2PM @ RCBC 

Contact Us:
Onay Sales (0918.536.2116)
RC Marzan (0922.888.5348)
Borgy Marzan (0922.888.5344)
email: watchplays@yahoo.com

Seat Plan can be viewed here:



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