Bristol Riverside Theatre follows up its season opener, An Act of God, with Kim Wayans and continues its 33rd Season with Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey’s Broadway hit, Next To Normal. This Tony and Pulitzer winning musical drama about a family coming apart at its center runs October 29 to November 24, 2019. Opening Night is Thursday, October 31 at 7:30pm. BRT’s Artistic Director Keith Baker directs this rock musical that features NYC-based actress Donna Vivino in the role of Diana.. All performances are at Bristol Riverside Theatre in Bucks County, located at 120 Radcliffe Street. Tickets are $15-$55 and are available online at brtstage.org, at the theatre’s box office, or over the phone at 215-785-0100.
One of Broadway’s biggest and most compelling hits, Next to Normal won three Tony Awards and a Pulitzer Prize for its searing rock score written by Tom Kitt with a book and lyrics by Brian Yorkey. The musical is a heartbreaking, humorous and unflinchingly authentic look at a seemingly normal modern family struggling with the effects of bipolar disorder. The story centers on a mother who struggles with worsening bipolar disorder and the effects that managing her illness has on her family. The musical addresses grief, depression, suicide, drug abuse, ethics in modern psychiatry, and the underbelly of suburban life. This emotionally powerful musical features original songs by Kitt (American Idiot) that have become musical theater standards, including “I Miss the Mountains,” “You Don’t Know,” and “Superboy and the Invisible Girl.”
“Next to Normal confronts very contemporary problems,” said BRT Artistic Director and Next To Normal Director Baker. “The show expands the notion of what musical theatre can do and the subjects it can approach. It does this while being utterly compelling and entertaining. I love this piece because of its courage, it’s fearlessness in tackling this subject, and the quality of its score and lyrics. It does not flinch at all.”
Before its Off-Broadway debut, Next to Normal received several workshop performances and won the Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding New Score and received Drama Desk Awards nominations for Outstanding Actress and Outstanding Score. The musical opened on Broadway in 2009. It was nominated for eleven Tony Awards and won three: Best Original Score, Best Orchestration, and Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical. It also won the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, becoming the eighth musical in history to receive the honor. Rent, was the last musical to win the Pulitzer, in 1996. The most recent musical to win the Pulitzer Prize for Drama was Hamilton. In awarding the prize to Kitt and Yorkey, the Pulitzer Board called the show “a powerful rock musical that grapples with mental illness in a suburban family and expands the scope of subject matter for musicals.”
Donna Vivino, a New York theatre veteran who has appeared on Broadway stages since she was eight years old, is playing Diana, the mother at the center of this rock musical. She played Elphaba in Wicked on Broadway and during Wicked’s first national tour. Many theatre fans heard and saw her as the original Young Cosette in Les Miserables on Broadway. She is featured on the cast recording singing “Castle on A Cloud.” She starred on Broadway in Fame Becomes Me with Martin Short and she was also on Broadway in Hairspray and Saturday Night Fever. Vivino plays Serena Maxwell in the Broadway World web-series Submissions Only (streaming on Stage Network). Film/TV Credits also include: The Sopranos, All My Children, Hometown, A Gifted Man, as well as dozens of national commercials and voice-overs. She was most recently seen in the NYC premiere of the one-woman musical Waiting For Johnny Depp (Outstanding Performance Award – Rave Theatre Festival).
“Diana is a woman filled with rage and confusion,” said Baker. “She has a sardonic and lacerating wit. She loves and is a mother, but is overwhelmed. She is lost in a wonderland. She must find the answer to save herself. The actress playing Diana must be able to make us sympathetic to all of this. Donna was perfect for this role.”
Danny Vaccaro returns to BRT as Diana’s husband, Dan. His favorite BRT roles include Richard in Time Stands Still, Louie in Lost in Yonkers, and Mitch in Tuesdays with Morrie. Danny has toured the country with the Tony Award winning production of La Cage aux Folles and as Otto Frank in The Diary of Anne Frank.
Laura Giknis returns to BRT to play Natalie, Diana and Dan’s conflicted daughter. At BRT she has appeared in Time Stands Still, Working, An Enemy of the People, Little Shop of Horrors [Barrymore Nominated Best Actress], Steel Magnolias, UP!, and various Music Fest concerts. She was recently seen as Ms. Honey in Walnut Street Theatre’s Matilda.
Playing Diana and Dan’s son is Liam Snead. BRT audiences saw him on stage this summer in Broadway Summer Spectacular. Local audiences will recognize him as Cliff from Bucks County Center for the Performing Arts’ production of Cabaret, Dick in Dames at Sea (Montgomery Theater), and Carousel (Media Theatre). He has also performed at Walnut St. Theatre and People’s Light.
Gary Lumpkin makes his BRT debut as Henry, the boy who grows close to Natalie. Lumpkin is a recent graduate of Wagner College. While there he was Martin Van Buren in Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson and Leaf Coneybear in 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. He also played Cornelius in Hello Dolly at Clear Space Theatre in Rehoboth, DE.
Philadelphia favorite Scott Greer plays each of the doctors that care for Diana. Greer is a 25 year veteran of local theatre, and has worked for 1812, the Arden, Walnut, InterAct, PTC, Wilma, People’s Light, Theatre Exile, Lantern Theatre Company and many more. He has won six Barrymore Awards for Excellence in Theatre including the prestigious F. Otto Haas Award for an Emerging Theatre Artist. He was named “Best Theatre Talent” by Philadelphia Magazine.
Bristol Riverside Theatre Artistic Director Keith Baker directs. Baker has directed over 90 plays and musicals for BRT, among them: Gypsy (starring Tovah Feldshuh), The Pirates of Penzance, Dear World (nominated for three Barrymore Awards), Chicago (nominated for six Barrymore Awards), The Balkan Women (winner of the Barrymore Award for Outstanding New Play) and The Dresser (Barrymore Award nominated for Outstanding Direction of a Play), Pride & Prejudice, Laughter on the 23rd Floor, Lost in Yonkers (nominated for two Barrymore Awards), Ragtime (nominated for nine Barrymore Awards), Rumors, Man of La Mancha, Working: a Musical, Jesus Christ Superstar, The Producers, and The Sunshine Boys. A significant part of the legacy he has created is the Summer Music Fest series and An American Christmas Songbook. As an actor he won the Broadway World Award for Best Actor in a drama for Old Wicked Songs. He has been nominated 11 times and was twice the recipient of the Carbonell Awards for Best Actor. Recently, Baker was named Best Director for his unanimously-praised production of Jesus Christ Superstar by the Philadelphia Critic’s Association.
Peter de Mets, a local composer and Music Director, returns to BRT as the Music Director for this searing rock musical. Elena Camp joins the artistic team as Choreographer. BRT favorite Roman Tatorwicz is designing the set. BRT Resident Costume Designer Linda Bee Stockton is creating the costumes. BRT favorite and Barrymore Award winner Ryan O’Gara returns as Lighting Designer. O’Gara is the Associate Lighting Designer for Hamilton. He has been installing the lighting at all of the touring production stops, including the one in Philadelphia. Sound Design is by Brett A. Pearson.
“Audiences should expect truthfulness and be compelled and entertained by the way musical theatre can express this family dilemma,” said Baker. “I hope audiences cry and applaud the victory in this story.”
Next To Normal runs at Bristol Riverside Theatre from October 29 to November 24, 2019. Bristol Riverside Theatre is located in Bucks County, at 120 Radcliffe Street, Bristol, PA. Tickets start at $15 to $55 and are available online at brtstage.org, at the theatre’s box office, or over the phone at 215-785-0100. Subscriptions for the 2019/2020 season are still available.
Bristol Riverside Theatre welcomes the holiday season with An American Christmas Songbook, running December 12-22. Each Winter, Keith Baker and the BRT Concert Band, with a line-up of fabulous singers perform favorite carols and heartwarming songs.
BRT kicks off 2020 bringing New York City’s acclaimed Bedlam Theatre to the BRT stage January 28-February 16, 2020 with King Lear by William Shakespeare. Led by director Eric Tucker, Bedlam brings a fresh interpretation to one of the greatest tragedies ever written.
In March, BRT brings to life the Kander and Ebb smash hit Cabaret running March 10 – April 12, 2020. With a book by Joe Masteroff, this musical set in a nightclub with World War II knocking on its door is directed by Keith Baker and features many Broadway standards including “Willkommen”, “Maybe This Time” and “Cabaret”.
The season concludes with A Leg Up by Bucks County’s own Ken Kaissar, running May 12 – May 31, 2020. Charles’ family money is gone, and his rich wife wants a divorce. His future rests on the new XR-3000, an intelligent prosthetic leg designed for a US Senator. Unfortunately, the malfunctioning leg is randomly kicking people, Charles’ Ukrainian maid is threatening to quit, his bisexual mistress announces she’s pregnant, his transgender business partner is lonely, the Senator is having an affair with the gay robotic engineer, and it’s not even lunchtime yet. The world-premiere farce will be directed by Amy Kaissar.
Bristol Riverside Theatre continues to enhance the theater-going experience with pre- and post- performance programs during the run of each production, including: Post-Show Discussions (first Tuesday and Wednesday of each run); Opening Night (first Thursday of each run) featuring a post-performance reception; Friday Festival (first Friday of each run) featuring beer and appetizers; Wine-Down Wednesday (second Wednesday evening of each run) featuring pre-show crudité, desserts, and wine, and Thirsty Thursday (third Thursday of each run) featuring unique beer selections from local breweries.
ABOUT BRISTOL RIVERSIDE THEATRE
Since 1986, BRT has continued to bring critically acclaimed professional theatre to Bucks County. The theatre is the recipient of over 71 Barrymore Award nominations for Excellence in Theatre, given annually by Theatre Philadelphia. Under the direction of Artistic Director Keith Baker, Founding Director Susan D. Atkinson, and General Manager David J. Abers, the theatre serves as a cultural hub for the community. In addition to its Mainstage productions, BRT offers four concerts, including the holiday tradition An American Christmas Songbook, the new play development series America Rising, and the summer theater arts camp ArtRageous. For information, visit www.brtstage.org.