Renegade Theater Company sings about family life and electroconvulsive therapy

IMG_4179 IMG_8547

With the combined forces of rock music, intense lighting, and strong actors Renegade Theater Company’s production of Next to Normal is shedding light on living with bipolar disorder.

In the show, mother Diana Goodman, played by Carolyn LePine, suffers from bipolar disorder, a mental illness that causes severe shifts in moods that can cause problems with day to day activities.

“That’s why we picked the show,” director Katy Helbacka says. “The subject matter is really important to me because it’s one of those things, where it’s an illness just like any illness that anyone can be born with, but it’s so taboo.”

The show does its best to make the subject matter less taboo by portraying it as accurately as possible.


“You have to find the things that are real about [Diana] and not just the things that are a caricature,” Le Pine says. “She’s a real person, who just happens to deal with emotional problems.”

The show, a drama with a strong, rock score, focuses on the lives of the Goodman family which includes Diana, her husband Dan, and their anxious daughter Natalie. It focuses on the problems with mania before Diana’s electroconvulsive therapy and the problems with forgetting after the it.

While it is an emotionally intense musical, the cast agrees that audiences will be pleased with the show.

“The music is some of the most beautiful music I've ever heard for a musical,” Andy Bennett, who plays Dan, says. “And the cast members are really, really impressive singers.”

Joey Brueske, who plays Natalie’s friend, Henry, likes the show because of how down-to-earth it is. “[The musical] is really real,” he says. “It doesn't sugar coat any details. It gives you what it would be in real life.”

“It’s such a heavy show,” Maria DePesa, who plays Natalie, says. “But it’s so awesome, because it’s so real.”

Next to Normal will be playing at Teatro Zuccone Mar. 20-22; Mar. 27-29; and Apr. 3-5. You can call the theater for tickets or visit their website.

All photos by Hallie Rogers.


Single father struggles to support child in Duluth

Housing goes gender neutral at UW-Superior