Award-Winning Musical ‘Next to Normal’ Begins Performances at EWP

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Deedee Magno Hall plays Diana in East West Players’ production of “Next to Normal.” (Photo by Michael Lamont)

East West Players (EWP), the nation’s longest-running professional theater of color in the country and the largest producing organization of Asian American artistic work, announces that its upcoming production of “Next to Normal,” directed by Nancy Keystone, begins performances this week and runs until June 11, with opening night on May 17.

“Next to Normal,” with music by Tom Kitt and book and lyrics by Brian Yorkey, tells the story of the seemingly perfect Goodman family. However, Diana, the mother, is a little too happy. Her husband Dan constantly worries. Her daughter Natalie is awfully intent on getting that scholarship to Yale. And her son Gabe, well…

This Tony Award- and Pulitzer Prize-winning rock musical is a heartbreaking, humorous, and unflinchingly authentic look at a suburban family struggling with the effects of bipolar disorder.

“What a great honor to work at East West Players, such a historically significant and artistically exciting organization,” says Keystone. “I’m thrilled to be directing ‘Next to Normal’ here. It’s a fascinating and powerful piece, and I can’t wait to dig into it with this group of actors and designers, who, no doubt, will shine new light on the story and ideas.”

“Nancy Keystone is one of the most interesting, innovative, and visionary directors that I know,” says EWP Artistic Director Snehal Desai. “I have been a huge fan of her work ever since I saw her production of ‘The Dying Gaul’ in Atlanta a decade ago. I am thrilled to be introducing her bold vision for this musical to East West Players. ‘Next to Normal’ is a profoundly moving piece of theater, and I can’t wait for Los Angeles theater audiences to experience it in the hands of this exceptionally talented production team led by Nancy.”

Keystone is a director, multi-disciplinary artist, and the artistic director of Critical Mass Performance Group (CMPG). Among CMPG’s works: “Ameryka” (Shakespeare Center of LA), “Alcestis” (Getty Villa and The Theatre @ Boston Court), “Apollo” (Kirk Douglas Theatre and Portland Center Stage), and “The Akhmatova Project” (CMPG). As a freelance artist she has directed and designed dozens of award-winning theater productions and operas around the country, including at Portland Center Stage, Center Theatre Group, Georgia Shakespeare Festival, Long Beach Opera, Actor’s Express (Atlanta), and San Francisco Shakespeare Festival.

Keystone is the recipient of a 2014 Doris Duke Performing Artist Award, a United States Artists Hoi Fellowship (2011), and Theatre Communications Group Alan Schneider Director Award (2003), and she has been named one of The Los Angeles Times’ “Faces to Watch.” She is on visiting faculty at UCLA, and is a frequent university guest lecturer.

The cast members are Deedee Magno Hall, Cliffton Hall, Isa Briones, Justin W. Yu, Scott Keiji Takeda, Randy Gulaya and Anthea Neri.

“We’re thrilled to welcome back Cliffton Hall and Deedee Magno Hall, the stars of EWP’s ‘The Who’s Tommy,’ who are joining us from the national tour of ‘If/Then’ — another Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey collaboration — in this evocative new production,” Desai said.

The Halls, who are married, have also starred in the national tours of “Miss Saigon” and “Wicked.”

Neri will play the role of Diana on Thursday, May 25, at 8 p.m.; Friday, May 26, at 8 p.m.; Saturday, May 27, at 2 and 8 p.m.; and Sunday, May 28, at 2 and 8 p.m. Deedee Magno Hall will play Diana for all other performance dates.

The creative team includes Marc Macalintal (music director), Hana Sooyeon Kim (scenic design), Glenn Michael Baker (assistant scenic design/prop master), Karyn Lawrence (lighting design), Bruce Yang (assistant lighting design), Lena Sands (costume design), Cricket Myers (sound design), and Letitia Chang (assistant stage manager).

All performances will be staged at the David Henry Hwang Theater at the Union Center of the Arts, 120 Judge John Aiso St. in Little Tokyo. Previews are Saturday, May 13, at 8 p.m. and Sunday, may14, at 2 p.m. All preview seats are $30. Regular performances run from Thursday to Sunday, with 8 p.m. shows from Thursday to Saturday, and 2 p.m. matinee shows on Saturday and Sunday. Opening night is Wednesday, May 17, at 8 p.m. “Pay-What-You-Can” performance is on Thursday, May 18, at 8 p.m. Post-show discussion immediately following the May 28 matinee.

Tickets may be purchased at www.eastwestplayers.org or by calling (213) 625-7000, making sure to mention any wheelchair/accessible seating needs. Student, senior, and group discounts are available. General admission ticket prices range from $30 to $70. Dates, details, and ticket prices are subject to change.

“Next to Normal” is part of “Radiant,” EWP’s 51st anniversary season, which focuses on featuring stories by and about women.

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