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Kansas State Collegian

Kansas State Collegian

The independent student news publication at Kansas State University

Kansas State Collegian

Manhattan Arts Center presents ‘Next to Normal’ musical: ‘It’s heavy, but it’s really, really important’

The performance follows Diana Goodman and her family as they strive to live a next-to-normal life through love, loss and mental illness
Empty+stage+set+for+the+Next+to+Normal+musical+at+the+Manhattan+Arts+Center.+
Mekaila Rickert
Empty stage set for the “Next to Normal” musical at the Manhattan Arts Center.

Conversations about mental health are essential in breaking stigmas and better supporting the people around us, and the Manhattan Arts Center’s take on the award-winning musical “Next to Normal” does just that.

“Next to Normal,” a pop/rock-style musical, follows a small suburban family where the mother, Diana Goodman, tries to give herself and her family a normal life as she struggles with bipolar disorder and psychosis.

“The content of the show is really important,” Cayden Pape, who plays Diana’s son, Gabe, said. “It destigmatizes a lot of things, especially bipolar disorder and therapy, and seeing how a lot of that can actually help with these situations. But then also talking about … the struggle that it is to have issues with mental health and deal with grief and loss.”

Pape said the MAC and the play’s director, Chuck Leonard, picked this musical because of its emotional impact.

“[The MAC] asked [Leonard] to … pick something that was edgier, and so he had heard a lot about this one, but he had never actually seen it or listened to it before he chose it,” Pape said. “So he picked it, and when he listened to it afterward, he was like, ‘This is awesome.’”

The MAC performs this play with only six cast members: Krista Dix as Diana, Evan Wylde as Dan, Jadyn LaRiviere as Dr. Fine and Doctor Madden, Ella Wellman as Natalie, Pape as Gabe and Nicolas Spellman as Henry.

Pape said while this musical could be triggering for some, it can help destigmatize mental health and treatment.

“There are a lot of things that a lot of people struggle with: grief, loss, mental health, suicidal ideation,” Pape said. “It’s heavy, but it’s really, really important, and it’s handled in a very positive way.”

The MAC will have its closing weekend of “Next to Normal” February 9-11, with shows at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 2:00 p.m. Sunday. Tickets can be bought online, over the phone or 45 minutes before showtimes.

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