High school guidance counselors will ask you to “define normal” when you feel out of place among your peers. Growing up in suburbia, you’re pretty sure being normal doesn’t consist of a family dealing with mental illness, drug abuse, and suicides. But, you’re pretty sure telling the counselor about all that will help her refine her definition. It’s not uncommon for families to feel trapped under the weight of their own concoction of major successes and catastrophic failures, which might not fit the idyllic, Leave it to Beaver definition of “normal,” but it’s par for the course these days.
Next to Normal explores those themes in rock-musical style, while confronting themes like bipolar disorder and ethics in the field of psychology. They might not be “nice” topics to discuss, but the play managed to entertain countless audiences with its Tony- and Pulitzer Prize-winning ways during a two-year run on Broadway. Now the cast is taking it to suburban hubs across the country, landing at Herberger Theater.