Penn State Centre Stage to present regional premiere of 'Next to Normal'

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Penn State Centre Stage will present the regional premiere of Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey’s rock musical "Next to Normal" from June 4 to 14 in the Penn State Pavilion Theatre. Directed by Cary Libkin and starring Ariela Morgenstern, Asa Somers, Raymond Sage, Tommy Hart, Christina Kidd and Gregory LaMontagne, "Next To Normal" tells the story of a mother struggling with worsening bipolar disorder and the dramatic effect that her illness has on her family.

Previews will be held at 7:30 p.m. June 4 and 5. Evening shows will run at 7:30 p.m. June 9, 10, 11 and 12; and at 8 p.m. June 6, 7, 13 and 14. A matinee is planned for 2 p.m. June 7. Evening tickets are $30; preview/matinee tickets are $20.

Tickets for the opening night reception/show are $60 each. (This Includes pre-show hors d’ouevres, show and post-show desserts.) Doors open at 6:30 p.m.; the show begins at 8 p.m.

For additional show information, visit Tickets are available at Penn State Tickets Downtown, Eisenhower Box Office, Bryce Jordan Center or by calling 814-863-0255 or 800-ARTS-TIX.

In "Next To Normal," mental illness – specifically bipolar disorder with psychotic features – is portrayed in a realistic, accurate way. The character struggling with mental illness, Diana, is not portrayed as the exaggerated “psychotic” character often depicted in popular culture, but rather, as a human being facing a set of personal challenges that are beyond her control.

“Given the subject matter of Next to Normal, it would be easy to think that it is depressing or despairing. The fact is, however, the work celebrates the human spirit, the power of familial love and the refusal to give up,” said Cary Libkin, director and head of Penn State Theatre School’s Musical Theatre Program. “Bringing this incredibly important piece of musical theater to our region is a privilege and a pleasure for everyone involved with the production.”

"Next To Normal" was nominated for 11 2009 Tony Awards and won three: Best Original Score, Best Orchestration and Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical. It also won the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, becoming just the 18th musical in history to receive the honor. In awarding the prize to Kitt and Yorkey, the Pulitzer Board called the show “a powerful rock musical that grapples with mental illness in a suburban family and expands the scope of subject matter for musicals.”

Cary Libkin (director) is pleased to return to Penn State Centre Stage to direct "Next to Normal." In past years, he has directed Centre Stage hits "Wait Until Dark, The Dining Room"; "Lend Me a Tenor"; "Baby"; "Whose Life Is It Anyway?"; "Closer than Ever"; "The Fantasticks"; "I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change"; "A Chorus Line"; and "Driving Miss Daisy." For more 20 years, Libkin has headed Penn State’s renowned Musical Theatre program which offers a bachelor of fine arts in performance and master of fine arts degrees in directing, musical direction and voice pedagogy. A member of the Society of Directors and Choreographers, Libkin maintains an active freelance directing career.

Ariela Morgenstern (Diana Goodman) has gained recognition in the world of musical theater, cabaret and opera. Morgenstern recently created the role of Ms. Wilde in the new national tour of "Flashdance the Musical" and has performed the role of Franca in "The Light In The Piazza" at Arena Stage and Theatreworks in California. A champion of new music, she was in the original Off-Broadway production of the award-winning musical "Adding Machine" and performed as the soloist in Imant Raminsh’s "The Symphony of Psalms" at Carnegie Hall. After specializing in the music of Kurt Weill for many years as a cabaret singer, Morgenstern was honored to win an award in the Kurt Weill Foundation’s International Lotte Lenya Competition. Other performance credits include Jenny in Marvel Rep's "The Threepenny Opera," Kate Haroney in Prospect Theatre’s "I Married Wyatt Earp," Aldonza in Flat Rock Playhouse’s "Man Of La Mancha" and the title role in "Carmen" with the Pacific Repertory and the San Francisco Lyric Opera. She is a proud member of Studio 42, a New York-based theater company dedicated to producing new and audacious works.

Tommy Hart (Henry) is a junior bachelor of fine arts in musical theater major from Dallas. Recent credits include Penn State Centre Stage’s Guys and Dolls (Big Jule), the School of Theatre’s The 25th Annual Putnam County Spell­ing Bee (Male Swing) and Legally Blonde (Warner) at the State Theatre. Hart also appeared in the Penn State NU. Musical Theatre Festival’s "A Hair Out of Place" (Warren/Wally Ray).

Christina Kidd (Natalie Goodman) is a junior bachelor of fine arts in musical theater major from the Washington, D.C., area and an Equity Membership Candidate. She was most recently a Swing in "Into the Woods" for PSCS and the Lady of the Lake in "Spamalot" and Elle Woods in "Legally Blonde" with State College Community Theatre. Other performance credits include Arena Stage’s "The Music Man" (Zaneeta u/s, Ensemble); Ford’s Theatre’s "Parade" (Mary Phagan u/s, Swing); Shenandoah Summer Music Theatre’s "Crazy for You" (Irene Roth), Chicago (June) and "Shrek" (Teen Fiona); The Theatre Lab’s "Into the Woods" (Cinder­ella), "The Secret Garden" (Lily Craven), "Sweeney Todd" (Johanna) and "Les Misérables" (Cosette); the Little Theatre of Alexandria’s "Hairspray" (Amber); and Springfield Community Theatre’s "The Fantasticks" (Luisa).

Gregory Lamontagne (Gabe) is a junior bachelor of fine arts in musical theater major from Houston. He recently performed Rapunzel’s Prince in the PSCS production of "Into the Woods." He also performed in "[title of show]" (Hunter), Leonard Bernstein "MASS" (Preacher) and "Guys and Dolls" (Benny Southstreet).

Raymond Sage (Dr. Fine/Dr. Madden) received a bachelor's degree in vocal performance from Baylor University and a master's degree in vocal performance from the University of Cincinnati's College-Conservatory of Music (CCM), followed by doctoral and post-graduate work also at CCM. Before joining the musical theater voice faculty at Penn State, Sage was on the voice and musical theatre faculties of Trinity College in Hartford, Conn., The American Musical and Dramatic Academy in New York City, and New York University's Tisch School of the Arts' prestigious musical theater conservatory, Collaborative Arts Project 21, Inc. (CAP 21). Sage is the founder and artistic director of Penn State’s acclaimed NU. Musical Theatre Festival, which has helped Penn State become the global leader among colleges and universities for the fostering and production of new works of musical theater. As a performer, Sage appeared in the Broadway and national touring productions of "Camelot," "Beauty and the Beast" and "Titanic," as well many regional theater productions across the country such as Pennsylvania Center Stage, Paper Mill Playhouse, Sacramento Theatre Company and Dallas Summer Musicals. In 2010, Sage appeared in the U.K. and European premieres of the Horton Foote American classic "The Trip to Bountiful" at the Courtyard Theatre in London and in the U.K. revival of the Eugene O’Neill’s "The Sea Plays" in 2012.

Asa Somers (Dan Goodman) made his Broadway debut in "The Rocky Horror Show" as a Phantom and Narrator understudy, then went on to join the original Broadway casts of "Dance of the Vampires" as Herbert, "Taboo" as the fight captain and standby for Boy George, "Grey Gardens" as a standby for Joe and Jerry, and "Next to Normal." He was also in the Off-Broadway productions of "Once Around The Sun" as Kevin at the Zipper Theatre, the Playwrights Horizons production of "The Burnt Part Boys" as Miner Taylor, "Hedwig and the Angry Inch" as Hedwig at the Jane Street Theatre and "Next to Normal" as Dr. Mad­den/Dr. Fine at the Second Stage Theatre. Somers originated Dan in the U.S. national tour cast of "Next to Normal" alongside Alice Ripley, Emma Hunton, Curt Hansen and Jeremy Kushnier, and stayed with the production until its close in July 2011.


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Last Updated May 26, 2014