Next to Normal at Mac-Haydn Theatre a Stunning Production That is Anything but Ordinary

Mac-Haydn‘s newest production is so perfectly named for this venue. Next To Normal revolves around Diana, a woman diagnosed with bipolar disorder, her medications, doctors, various treatments, and how they affect not only her but her family: Dan, her overly optimistic devoted husband. Natalie, the teen aged daughter who is convinced that her mother hates her.  And her son Gabe, who speaks only to Diana. This play is so next to normal from anything you have come to expect from Mac-Haydn, and it is a breath of fresh air. It is perhaps the most unusual production that Mac has ever undertaken, in terms of stretching both its cast and particularly its audience. 

Beth Kirkpatrick as Diana (photo by Ann Kielbasa)

Producing Artistic Director John Saunders has married together an amazing cast, led by Beth Kirkpatrick as Diana and Eric Van Tielen as husband Dan. Kirkpatrick’s majestic voice carries with it all the nuance and emotion that Diana is living. Van Tielen’s interpretation beautifully tempers Dan’s otherwise clawing, overly cheerful upbeat character. His vibrant singing voice adds much to his characterization. It is a pleasure to have them join the Mac-Haydn roster of performers. 

They are united with Mac vet Gabe Belyeu as Drs. Fine and Madden. Belyeu manages to inhabit two completely opposite characters both physically and emotionally, such that when he returns to the stage he is almost unrecognizable until you hear his voice. He does a phenomenal job in the dual roles. 

Also joining the cast are Kylan Ross as Gabe, Amber Mawande-Spytek as Natalie, and Andrew Burton Kelly as Natalie’s boyfriend Henry. The three round out a cast that is an embarrassment of riches with talent. Mawande-Spytek shines as she moves through a series of complex emotions, from hate and resentment, to maturity and a realization of what life has put in her path. Gradually, she comes to learn how to deal with the obstacles her mother’s condition has thrust before her. Kelly struts his stuff as the ever-willing, caring boyfriend longing to simply understand and provide support and compassion for his girlfriend.  Kylan Ross brings a maturity and depth of performance to this role, running the gambit of emotions from A to Z, that we have not seen from him until now on the Mac stage. 

This entire production has been wrapped as a stunning gift presented to the audience inside Emma Cummings scenic design, with Andrew Gmoser’s beautiful lighting design, Bethany Marx’s costumes, Caitlin Maxwell’s wigs, Eric Shorey’s music direction, and the Next To Normal band. 

Kylan Ross as Gabe (photo by Ann Kielbasa)

Next To Normal, with book and lyrics by Brian Yorkey and music by Tom Kitt is a 2009 Pulitzer Prize winner. This production is flawlessly presented under Saunders’ directorial tutelage. It is a play that will make you think, reflect, cry and laugh. It is a show of sadness and hope. Stretch yourself and tackle something new and different. Leave any preconceived notions you may have about what musical theatre is or should be, and immerse yourself into the experience that Mac-Haydn has presented for you. It is a journey you won’t be sorry to have taken.

Next To Normal runs at the Mac-Haydn Theatre, in Chatham through August 14. Tickets are $45. For more information:, or call the box office at: 518-392-9292.

1 Comment
  1. Jeanne (Charters) Restivo says

    Love reading your reviews, Billy. Almost makes me wish I was back in the Capital Region.


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