Musical probes taboo issue

NANAIMO - Schmooze productions presents Next to Normal at the Harbour City Theatre.

Jennifer Kelly

Jennifer Kelly

The rock musical Next to Normal examines a mother struggling with mental illness.

It examines the life of a suburban family and the issues family members deal with while trying to support a person they love.

The subject matter is intense and emotional, but with a pop-rock music score pumping into the stage from the background. The story hits people with a classical-metal edginess that examines the issue in a fresh new way.

It’s one of the facets of the play that attracted Dean Chadwick, artistic director of Schmooze Productions, to the piece.

Schmooze tries to examine controversial or taboo ideas in its work, such as last season’s production of Rent, that examined drug addiction, AIDS and homosexual relationships.

“It’s an honest look at a family and the effects of mental illness,” said Chadwick. “You have this ordinary family and the extraordinary effects happening to them. It’s a real-life family living through an incredible circumstance.”

The play “paints an authentic and thought-provoking picture” of mental illness, said Chadwick in a press release.

The rock music varies from classical ballets to hyped-up beats that have a metal sound depending on what is happening on stage. For example, if a character is having an anxiety attack, the music mirrors that with a hectic beat.

“The music drives the show. It grabs the audience but also grabs the actors…” said Chadwick. “The show can’t be described in words. You have to see it and enjoy it.”

Chadwick co-directs the play with Lisa Kerr and plays the character of Dan.

Next to Normal premiers Thursday (Nov. 12) at 8 p.m at Harbour City Theatre, located at 25 Victoria Rd.

Other showtimes include Nov. 13-14, Nov. 19-21, Nov. 26-28, Dec. 3-5 at 8 p.m. Matinees are Nov. 15, 22, and 29 at 2 p.m.

Tickets are $29 and are available at Catwalk Fashions or online at