Bets Malone, is no stranger to either the San Diego Stage or the her role as Diana Goodman In “Next to Normal”. Growing up in Vista, she has performed from Vista, to New York, and back again to the west coast, and now back to San Diego. Her next role brings her to San Diego Musical Theatre where she tackles the role of Diana Goodman in NEXT TO NORMAL.
Diana Goodman is a rare character to find in musical theatre. She is a mom who struggles with her deteriorating bipolar disorder and the effect that her illness and the attempts to alleviate it have on her family. As families do, they all have their quirks, and their coping mechanisms, so could this be a picture of the underbelly of suburbia? With all of the emotional turmoil of this character what is it like prepping to play a role like this?
“The show deals with so much mental health issues and depression, and I have had, unfortunately, some close friendships that have suffered form these kind of illnesses and the theatre community lost a treasured person right before I started working on “Next to Normal”. So I kind of channeled him and it was a really great therapy sessions for me, the whole rehearsal process just dealing with what he has to deal with it – with getting the medications right, and feeling like you felt like nothing because once medications were working then nothing, you don’t feel like a normal person. So it was a really crazy process but a really healthy one for me. The realism is so rich and there is a reason why it won the Pulitzer Prize – it’s just so rich!”
Yet this compelling role almost was one that auditioning for came with a bit of a challenge. “When I auditioned for originally Nick DeGruccio who directed it, before the audition I asked him if I was in the ballpark to play the role. And Nick said ‘no,’ it wasn’t my role. Then the theatre casting director called me in and all I could tell my husband was that I was dreading going in there because I knew that Nick doesn’t think that I’m right. Steve gave me great advice and told me to ‘buckle down and do the best that you can and change some minds’. So I went to the audition, not thinking that I could ever book it, but that I would change my friend, Nick’s mind and so that’s what I did. So that was an exciting accomplishment for me. I have had a lot of those in my career where I set my eye on target and I go ‘I’m going to get that’ you know and so it was really exciting.”
Bets has had the opportunity to play Diana in a previous production that was also directed by Nick DeGruccio and has Robert J. Townsend as her husband Dan. So what is it like coming in with half of an established cast and half a new cast?
“I have such trust in the director and I love Don Le Master (the musical director). I trust Robert so implicitly and kind of have to hang on to each other for this whole show so I’m thrilled that he is the not new person involved in the process.”
Bets has played a wide range of roles from A Marvelous Wonderette, to a crazed pie baker in “Sweeny Todd,” to MammaWho is the upcoming “Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas” at the Old Globe (Robert will join her there as Papa Who). So what roles is she looking forward to tacking next?
“I’ve been very blessed I really gotten to do so much of always wanted to do I get excited about new works and new things that people are writing just simply because of something else to sink your teeth into. But I am actually enjoying the fact that I am moving into a whole other set of roles in my age. That’s going to be wonderful…I definitely in the future want to tackle Mamma Rose , and Dolly Levi and I love the classics. I kind of want to do it all and so I work really hard and keep working.”
NEXT TO NORMAL opens Sept. 26 and runs through Oct. 12. Show times will be Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 8 p.m., and Sunday at 2 p.m. Ticket information and pricing at www.sdmt.org or by calling their administrative office at (858) 560-5740.