Next to Normal on stage at the Saenger Theater - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Next to Normal on stage at the Saenger Theater

In the rock drama, the music tells the story and brings difficult issues and complex characters to life. Cody Breland calls the music powerful. (Photo source: WLOX News) In the rock drama, the music tells the story and brings difficult issues and complex characters to life. Cody Breland calls the music powerful. (Photo source: WLOX News)

Next to Normal is a gripping musical drama that tackles the subject of mental illness. The show won three Tony Awards on Broadway in 2009, including best musical score.

Now, Coast residents have a chance to see a local production at the Saenger Theatre in Biloxi.

The story centers around a suburban family's struggles as they cope with mental illness. The mother, played by Jennifer Scrimpshire, has been battling manic depression for sixteen years and her family pays the price.

Scrimpshire says the play shares an important message.

"A lot more people are mentally ill than realize we everyday, and it's not really something we can just thrown an anti-depressant at and fix it. It goes way deeper than that," said Scrimpshire. 

In the rock drama, the music tells the story and brings difficult issues and complex characters to life. Cody Breland calls the music powerful.

"It's very edgy....literally, it'll go from this smooth ballad right into in your face blaring guitar solo," said Breland. "It is a rock musical at its heart."

Breland and Nicolette Sigur play the teen children, who are caught in the middle of the family crisis. 

"The show is about how it affects the people in Diana's life and those who try to help her, and how they try to help her," said Sigur. That's what makes it such an experience." 

The music and the emotions take the audience into the minds and hearts of each character, and it's the father, played by Mark Williams, who works to keep the family together.

Williams said, "He is one of the strongest characters that you see trying to hold everything together, when he actually has flaws himself."

Rounding out the small, talented cast of six, Trae Spears as the psychiatrist and James McKinney as the boyfriend. Spears is also the musical director. Janice Murphy is the artistic director. 

Next to Normal runs March 31 through April 3; at the Saenger Theatre in Biloxi. For ticket information, visit downstagetheatre.com.

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