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In our culture, unfortunately, mental illness is generally not talked about, even though it's all around us. Most of us know someone - or someone who knows someone - who struggles with a mental illness of some sort. Of course, it's fine to talk about cancer or stroke or heart failure or other debilitating physical illnesses. But when it comes to illnesses of the mind, talk is often kept to a whisper, and happens mostly behind closed doors. Which is sad, because not talking about mental illness only maintains the "taboo" status, keeps mental illness stigmatized, and further isolates the millions of people who are afflicted with it.

"Next to Normal," the Pulitzer Prize-winning musical now playing at The Majestic Theatre, is an extraordinarily good show. Yes, it deals with mental illness, but that shouldn't keep anyone away, because it does so in such an amazingly upbeat and beautiful way, that you'll be moved on many different levels. And best of all, you'll come away wanting to talk about mental illness. So hats off to director Ruth Mandsager and her extraordinarily talented cast, crew, and musicians. They knock this musical out all the way out of the park, and our world is better for it. So go see the show, soon, then talk to someone about mental illness. Or sing about it. Because that helps. Really.

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Gregg Kleiner

Corvallis (Nov. 2)

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