"Next to Normal" is a rock musical that had its debut off-Broadway in 2008, and is now coming to Orlando.

ORLANDO – Every family, Paul Castaneda noted, can seem happy, united and content with their way of life.
It’s only when you scratch a bit beneath the surface – or, perhaps, listen quietly outside their front door when they think no one is around – that you might discover there’s so much more to this family.
“I think from a personal perspective and what I’ve encountered in my own life and family, all families have things going on that nobody else knows about, that is really secret and sacred to that family and kept from the outside world,” said Castaneda. “Then it explodes in a way that it can’t be kept in that bottle. That’s the case with the Goodman family. They struggled for years to deal with issues that were difficult to handle.”
The Goodman family is the central focus of the rock musical “Next to Normal,” which made its debut off-Broadway in 2008. It’s the story of a normal enough family, until one of member struggles with a worsening bipolar disorder. The play covers the impact the illness has on the rest of the family.
The musical is coming to Orlando next week, and is bring produced by the Greater Orlando Actors Theatre, or GOAT. Castaneda’s GOAT’s executive director, said the production premieres on Thursday, Feb. 2 at the Orlando Shakespeare Theatre at Loch Haven park.
“It’s a Pulitzer-prize winning drama that won the Pulitzer for drama, even though it’s a musical,” Castaneda said. “It was very well received on Broadway. It basically tells the story of a family that seems normal on the outside, but you get a better perspective on things as you get to know them.”
Actress Leesa Halstead, who is co-producing the play with Castaneda and plays the lead role of Diane, discovered the play and knew that GOAT should produce it.
“It dealt with certain things that I was familiar with,” Halstead said. “I had gotten the soundtrack and just started listening to it and fell in love with the show. Being a mom and identifying with her as a mom and dealing with the highs and lows of trying to have the perfect family, I started listening to it every day and fell in love with it. When the rights became available, we just jumped on it. It’s a real story about a real family, just trying to get by. They seem from the outside that they are the perfect family. The dad is an architect and the mom stays home with the kids. They look like everybody else on the block, except one of the members is suffering from a serious illness.”
Castaneda said he was completely swayed by it when he read the play.
“I thought it was strong stuff,” he said. “It’s a difficult show to do in that it’s almost all songs. There are a few scenes that have dialogue, but they all lead into songs, and there is a ton of singing in the show. There’s somewhere from 37 to 39 songs in it. They’re all really well done, with a variety of different styles. It is rock-pop-type music, but I would say it’s an animal all to its own. There are some thunderous rock, intensive songs to it, and we are doing it with a live band, so you’ll get the full flavor of that, but there are also some nice and tender moments in the show as well.”
Underneath all the songs, he added, is a searing dramatic situation.
“It is definitely a drama, although there are some comedic moments in it,” Castaneda said. “I found myself really feeling for the characters. I think people will be really drawn to all of them.
“This really is a story about regular families,” Halstead said, “They call it a rock musical, and it’s predominantly music. The off-Broadway production had a lot more dialogue and less music, but I think they made it more music because it was a way to tell the story without using words. The music goes high, it goes low. There are happy moments, and there are sad moments, there are high notes and low notes. There are aspects of it that sound like a very old fashioned musical, and some aspects that are really rock and roll. And I think it’s indicative of the fact that we are all over the place. What’s considered to be normal?”
The show is being directed by Michael Horn, and the cast includes Michael Gunn, Wyatt Glover, Jaz Zepatos, Dan Middleditch and Brett Dault. Performances are Feb. 2-6 and Feb. 9-11 at 8:30 p.m. at the Goldman Theatre at 812 E. Rollins St., inside the Lowndes Shakespeare Theatre. For a limited time, GOAT will be offering a pre-sale discount for all tickets purchased online. The general admission discount is $15 instead of $20 by using the code GENERALPS. The student discount is $13 instead of $15, using the code STUDENTPS. The senior discount is $13 instead of $15, using the code SENIORPS
For reservations and more information, log on to www.goatgroup.org or call 407-872-8451.

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