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The cast and crew of “Next to Normal” prepare for their closeups. Clockwise from far right are Max Del Rio, Shyann Shath, Jordan Mrvos, Dan Khabbaz, Cassie Cole, Patrick Stap, Jessica MacKimm, Matt Browne and Jake Klaasens. Missing from the photo is cast member Kara Yennaco. Performances of the musical are Friday and Saturday at Windham High School, with both shows to take place at 7 p.m. (APRIL GUILMET/Union Leader Correspondent)

Windham seniors prepare to exit stage left

WINDHAM — Eight graduating Windham High School seniors will make their final curtain call this weekend during the school drama club's production of "Next to Normal."

Produced entirely by students, the rock-musical explores the ethics of modern psychiatry, how we cope with loss and how a modern family attempts to function in times of crisis.

The critically acclaimed original production debuted on Broadway in 2009 and has won three Tony Awards.

Senior Jessica MacKimm, who plays the role of Diana, a suburban mother coping with bipolar disorder, while also serving as the show's assistant director, said she has enjoyed getting into character one final time.

During one particularly memorable scene, Diana becomes angered and frustrated with her illness and flings all of her medications into the toilet.

Rehearsals began in April, and the performers have endured a grueling practice schedule balanced with the many other tasks associated with being a soon-to-be high school graduate.

"We spent a lot of time rehearsing at my house on the weekends," she said.

Like the rest of her fellow cast members, MacKimm has been heavily involved in the drama club for most of her high school career. She also played the flute in the school marching band and plans to study music education at Ithaca College this fall.

Senior Matt Browne, who portrays Diana's long-suffering husband, Dan, and serves as director, said the show almost didn't happen.

"There wasn't going to be a spring show this year, but we really wanted for the seniors to have their last hurrah," said Browne, who will study engineering at Northeastern University this fall.

Browne, who is a black belt, regularly produces karate demonstration shows in the community. That, combined with his many performances on the local high school stage, made him a natural choice for director.

"We had a few ideas for a spring show," said Browne.

Ultimately, "Next to Normal" won out since all of the participating seniors were excited about the lively musical score, the dance numbers and the dramatic subject matter.

That, and the stage set proved less costly than some of the other options.

Sophomore Jillian DiPersio, who serves as the drama club's publicist, said the club was able to make arrangements with New York City's Music Theatre International, which allowed them to rent out the same equipment that once graced a city stage.

"The show is a pretty dramatic one, but like real life it has its funny moments," Browne said.

Also performing in this weekend's shows are seniors Shyann Shath, Jordan Mrvos, Jake Klaasens, Cassie Cole, Patrick Strap and Kara Yenacco.

Performances of "Next to Normal" are this Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. in the Windham High School auditorium.

Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for students and seniors. Due to the show's mature subject matter, a parent must accompany students under age 13.

Art Jam Bridge Fest
Saturday, 10 a.m. - 3 p.m.

Eric Church
Thursday-Friday, 7 p.m.

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