Next to Normal is coming to SCP

By Ande Jacobson

Sunnyvale Community Players opens their production of Next to Normal on Saturday, 22 April 2023. Performances run Fridays – Sundays through 14 May 2023. This rock musical with book and lyrics by Brian Yorkey and music by Tom Kitt was honored with the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 2010. The show is notable for being one of the first to deal with the serious issues surrounding mental health in American society and in particular in suburbia. Awareness through art can be powerful, enlightening, and healing, and this show makes a strong statement. The plot surrounds a family dealing with mental illness and the effects that it has on all of them through looks inside their hearts and minds. Despite outward appearances, they are all deeply affected in some unexpected ways. The characters are genuine and sympathetic, and the challenges they face from society at large and the medical community come vividly to life on stage through the music and stories told through song.

Vinh G. Nguyen directs this production with help from assistant director, Anastasia Helfinstein. Nguyen’s program note alludes to his goal of normalizing mental health discussions within our society across ethnic boundaries to ensure that everyone can get the help they need without social stigma. In an effort to include more than the usual complement of actors in these expansive roles, Nguyen has chosen to double cast this production to allow twice as many actors to present two very different interpretations of this important show.

The casts include:

Mountain Cast (performing 4/22, 4/28, 4/30, 5/6, 5/12, and 5/14): Sarah Jebian, Robert Lopez, Skyler Riordan, Julia Wright, Cordelia Larsen, and Lauren D’Ambrosio.

Lights Cast (performing 4/23, 4/29, 5/5, 5/7, 5/11, and 5/13): Christi Waybright, Joseph Cloward, Theo Twilleager, Mai Abe, Jenni Chapman, and Ryan Liu.

The rest of the artistic staff includes:

Vocal directors: Stacy Levin, Ruiran Xin and Music Director Val Zvinyatskovsky.

The orchestra includes: Conductor: Val Zvinyatskovsky; Bass: Thomas Calamia, George Alfs; Drums: Bruce Campbell; Guitar: Thinh Nguyen; Piano: Ruiran Xun; Violin/Synth: Nathan Mailoa, Jaime Yuen.

This show promises some exciting performances on stage as well as under it. Val Zvinyatskovsky has been making a splash in the musical theater community for over a decade. He’s one of those multitalented individuals who is comfortable on the stage, behind the stage, above the stage, and under the stage. Despite his youth (at the time of this production, he’s only 17), he’s been busy directing, designing, acting, and making music in numerous ways over the years.

As mentioned in previous articles, I have worked with Val on numerous productions and had the honor of introducing him to this very pit in our 2019 production of Urinetown. Since then he’s piano-conducted several shows, but Next to Normal is his debut on the podium with a baton in his hand skillfully playing the orchestra as an instrument. I have no doubt that his orchestra will delight cast and audiences alike.

Tickets for this production are available on the SCP website, and performances will take place at the Sunnyvale Community Theatre located at: 550 East Remington Dr., Sunnyvale, CA 94087.

SCP is serious about COVID-19 safety and requires that all patrons wear masks while inside the theater. Proof of vaccination is not required.

Additional Information:

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