Meet Next to Normal’s “Henry” and the “Doctors “

Meet Next to Normal’s “Henry” and the “Doctors “ image

Darnell Abraham‘s (Doctor Madden/Doctor Fine) credits include include: The Color Purple Revival (National Tour & Paper Mill Playhouse), I Dream (Grand Rapids Opera), Ragtime (Ogunquit Playhouse & Barrington Stage Co.), and Side Show (Media Theatre).

This is Jakeim Hart‘s (Henry) regional theatre debut! His credits include TV: Blue Bloods (CBS); The Affair (Showtime). Theater: The Visitor (The Public Theater). Proud alum of Muhlenberg College and the Accademia dell’Arte (Arezzo, Italy).

Casa: What excites you the most about heading down to Cowtown?

Darnell: I am a bit of a foodie and so I look forward to discovering what Fort Worth has to offer!

Jakeim: I’m excited about traveling to new places I’ve yet to visit! I hear everything is bigger in Texas??? Curious to see the validity of such a statement. I like that it’s called Cowtown, cows are nice! Are your cows bigger as well? (Lol, I’ll stop.)
Casa: Do you have any preshow rituals?

Darnell: Hmm, it depends on the show and the demands of the character. If it’s a very demanding role, I like to center and quiet myself while sipping on coffee. Otherwise, I’ll put my headphones on and crank up the music while playing Toon Blast.

Jakeim: I drink a lot………..of water! And eat raw ginger usually before any kind of singing happens. Breathing helps too!
Casa: Do you have particular credits you’re really proud of and why?

Darnell: Oy, this is a tough one to answer because every credit is special! But for the sake of narrowing it down to two, I’d have to say: 

The 1st National Tour of The Color Purple Revival because it was my first National Tour and it’s a powerful story about an African-American woman that overcomes life’s adversities. It was also an honor to understudy Mister and play the role at The Kennedy Center!

The other credit I am also proud of is Ragtime because Coalhouse is a complex character and I’ve had the privilege to study and revive him for quite some time now. There’s just something uniquely special about living with and growing in a role over several years.

Jakeim: This is going back a while, but I think I’m most proud of a reading I did at the Public Theater for a new musical by the one and only Tom Kitt. I don’t want to give too many details about the show, but Mandy Patinkin was involved and it was slated to be his big return to Broadway. The show involved many actor musicians, primarily with percussive instruments. My character played the djembe.
Casa: This show is on the heavier side of topics, but what excites you the most about doing Next to Normal? 

Darnell: Next to Normal is unlike any show I have done to date. Although the topics are indeed a bit heavy, it’s an important story to tell and the music is absolutely remarkable. Not to mention, I am excited about making my Casa Mañana debut in this wonderful production!

Jakeim: “Heavier side of topics” is putting it lightly. I actually think what I’m most excited about participating in this production, as an artist of color, is what the audience may glean from some color being injected into a piece that is rarely imagined as having Black folk involved in it. From my personal and scholarly experience, mental illness is a nuance typically reserved for whiteness. What I think doing this show provides to an audience is a chance to expand our collective, ‘normalized’ imagination. Issues pertaining to mental health are issues that we all relate to and negotiate on a daily basis, yet somehow I, and people who look like me, frequently are left out of this picture. I’m a firm believer in the power of representation. Representation of Black voices as it relates to mental health is largely unprecedented on the American stage. It’s silly to say that I think we’re going to solve that with this production. Realistically, I think it’s more productive to be concerned about starting dialogue that has yet to make its way into certain circles. I hope to throw my two cents into this dialogue that we’ll surely start with the Fort Worth community.
Casa: What are you hoping the audience will take away from Next to Normal?

Darnell: I hope this production of Next to Normal will help normalize mental illness awareness and remove the political factor that often impedes upon our ability to have an open and honest discussion about this issue. My desire is that our audiences will feel enlightened and inspired as we illuminate the complexities of mental health through this show.
Next to Normal is playing at Casa Mañana November 3-11! Click here to get tickets.