Sarasota’s rich history of the arts lives on not only through its professional theater companies, but also through its community theaters as well. Since 1947, that artistic spirit has been alive and well at the Manatee Performing Arts Center. In the 2022-23 season, legacy will live on with six new productions - perhaps most notably in Next to Normal, a musical by Brian Yorkey. The musical, which focuses on a suburban family dealing with the effects of mental illness, is tonally different from the majority of the productions at the Manatee Performing Arts Center– it’s emotionally heavier, as it features a mother struggling with a worsening bipolar disorder. “It may be a  little bit of a stretch for our die-hard usuals, as it deals with heavy issues like mental health and how it affects families. However, I try to get a season that gets our actors  well as our patrons. Actors in the area seem to be really excited because Next to Normal is done so rarely–it’s a great opportunity to showcase some local talent here,” says Rick Kerby, the Producing Artistic Director of Manatee Performing Arts Center. Part of the reason that the show is such a rarity to the area is because of licensing issues. In what Kerby describes as a particularly difficult season in acquiring licensing for productions, the ability to produce Next to Normal was a pleasant surprise. “We’re locked out by licensing companies if a professional production is doing that show within a 60 mile radius of us - so if a touring company does that show in Tampa, then I can’t get an opportunity to do it. Next to Normal has been one of those shows on my wishlist and that I tried again and again and again to get the licensing to do it and finally we’ve gotten the opportunity to do it,” confesses Kerby.

Manatee Performing Arts Center, January 19–9, 2023