University of Miami alumnus Sarah Amengual is starring in the Tony award-winning musical “Next to Normal” at Actor’s Playhouse through Feb. 12.
The show follows a woman’s struggle with manic-depressive disorder and the toll it takes on her family as they struggle to take care of one another. The Broadway show has won the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for drama, along with three Tony awards.
“It’s truly phenomenal,” said Amengual, who plays the daughter, Natalie. “It’s a show that everyone has a story about.”
She said that the show has had a tremendous effect on the audience.
“It’s really interesting how the show has caused people to open,” Amengual said. “People say, ‘I’ve been depressed … it’s really cool to see this put into the open, and not stigmatized.’”
Amengual thinks the show is so powerful because the story is universal.
“Everyone has someone in their life that they feel it has ties to,” Amengual said. “In a manner, even if you’ve never dealt with any mental disease in any capacity, everyone knows someone who’s gone through it.”
The show features pre- and post-show discussions with UM Miller School of Medicine professors. The theatre wanted to allow audience members to discuss any related issues or questions they might have with a professional.
“It was a very sophisticated and useful discussion and seems like a wonderful idea to link the evocative play with a psychiatric discussion,” said Dr. Spencer Eth, a staff psychiatrist at Miami VA Hospital, who led the first pre-show discussion.
Eth sees the discussions as a useful addition to the show.
“If any of the students do go to the play, and they should, they should certainly put aside the time to go before or after the play to take part in the discussion whether or not they have an interest in psychiatry,” he said.
This is Amengual’s second major production since graduating in 2010. She made her debut on Broadway in New York City as Maria in “West Side Story” after graduation. She was offered the part after spending months auditioning for the tour version of the show.
“I was kind of numb. I was in such a state of shock,” she said. “I was floored. I didn’t even do anything that evening, I just went home and slept.”
Originally from Florida, she auditioned for the part while in New York after hearing about it from friends back home.
“I’m so thrilled to be out of New York when it’s cold and snowing there,” she said.