Student Run Musical Theatre Presents Next to Normal

History will be made this weekend on the Wagner College campus in Staten Island, New York as the student theatre group Student Run Musical Theatre is at it again. After a successful first production of The Last 5 Years for the 2011-2012 Season, Student Run Musical Theatre will be the first group to ever put on a college production of the Broadway smash hit Next to Normal this weekend.

Student Run Musical Theatre is still a fresh face to the Wagner College Campus after appearing last year hoping to provide “another outlet for theatre on campus”. The group was founded by Billy Aberle and Chris Sabol. Their first production last year was A New Brain. They kicked off their season this year with The Last 5 Years and are now well underway into their second production of the year.

Next to Normal is a rock musical that features book and lyrics by Brian Yorkey and music by Tom Kitt. The musical follows the story of a family and how they are affected as the mother of the family deals with a serious case of bipolar disorder. As the show continues, it worsens and the story broadens to deal with suicide, grieving a loss, drug abuse and suburban life just to mention a few. The musical features hit songs such as “I am the One”, “Superboy and the Invisible Girl” and “I’m Alive” just to name a few.

Director Billy Aberle talked about the importance of the story and show to him when I asked him what in the story of this show was important to him personally? “People think musicals are big and flashy. This musical is relatable – I mean, this could happen”. Its clear from the way he talks about it that there is not only a clear passion for the material but broader understanding which is clearly needed. “There show is genuine, down to earth but mostly, it is what it is”. And I think that is absolutely the best way to say it. Musical Director Chris Sabol and I also got a chance to speak briefly about the music. “Its definitely challenging”, Chris says talking about how this music is totally different from the last production SRMT did. “Everything just flows in this so its about keeping the pit together”.

Student Run Musical Theatre has put together a fantastic cast for this production. The production features Steven Babino, a Junior Theatre Performance major, as Dan. Marielle Greguski, a Freshmen Theatre Performance major, as Diana. Timothy McMillan, a Freshmen Music major, as Gabe. Allison Dufford, a Junior Theatre Performance major, as Natalie. Pat Dutton, a Freshmen Pre-Law major, as Henry and Cameron Sammartano, a Senior Arts Administration major, as Dr. Fine and Dr. Madden.

I dropped by Next to Normal on an exciting night for them. No, not because I was there to chat with a few of them – but NY1 was there as well to report on this first ever college production taking place. There was a very exciting energy in the air and that was clear. And whether I talked to the creative team or the cast, they all used the word “honored” when I asked them what it was like to be working on the first ever college production of Next to Normal.

Allison Dufford, who plays Natalie in the production, mentions this opportunity as being “incredible”. What exactly about it is? “Knowing a college could do a production of this and have the dedication to focus on details and the acting required”. When I ask Allison what she’ll end up taking away from all of this, she gives a great answer “Student Productions are interesting; in the sense that they are much more collaborative. You have no adults and its really a learning process – for everyone. You learn to become self sufficient working on shows like this” – Definitely well said.

Well said while Steven Babino, who plays Dan, is rather speechless about it all when asking him. “Its awesome! And its legit!” is his first response and probably the best way to describe his clear excitement about working on this production. And when asked what he will take away from this all? “I’ve just had  real blast – even being up at all hours sometimes working on the show. The show is incredible and that will definitely transfer into the performances” Well said and refreshing to see such excitment about a new production about to hit the Wagner College Campus

So, don’t miss Student Run Musical Theatre’s production of Next to Normal this weekend only at Wagner College! The production will run November 11th at 8 PM and November 12th at 9:30 PM in the Performance Center! And as if all of this was exciting enough, calling it “The Most Epic Wish”, as proceeds (100%) from the 11/11/11 performance of Next to Normal will be donated to the Make a Wish Foundation. So, witness history in the making and an all star production of Next to Normal this weekend at Wagner College. Luner on Theatre will be reviewing the production on Opening Night so you can expect our review bright and early on the 12th! Check back for that and of course, Check out the rest of Luner on Theatre for your Student Run Musical Theatre News and Student Production News period at Wagner College!

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