Julie and I often get tickets for shows at Theatre Cedar Rapids. Many times we laugh. Sometimes we shed a tear or two. Saturday night's show provided an emotional roller coaster that had everyone in tears on many occasions.

The production is "Next to Normal." It tells the story of a family whose lives are affected by the mother's mental illness. It punches you in the gut and you cry. You laugh a little. It punches you in the gut and you cry again.

It's a musical, but if that's not your thing (many times it's not mine), you'll make a mistake if you don't go. I'm always impressed by the talent on the TCR stage, but Saturday night's cast was made up of a grand total of six actors and actresses. They were FABULOUS. Every single one of them.

Alex Anderson, Ian Goodrum, Nikki Stewart, Steve Goedken, and Jonathan Schmidt were all incredible. Whether the therapist (Anderson), the daughter's boyfriend (Goedken), the daughter (Stewart), or son (Goodrum), the singing and the emotion they brought to the stage was unbelievable. I swear I felt their pain. They were all that good.

However, the clear star of this show is Tracie Hodina Van Pelt who plays the mother, Diana. In the play, she's suffered from depression for more than 15 years. I found myself rooting for her and hoping the unthinkable wouldn't happen.

I was touched so many times I lost count. The same can be said for the number of times tears ran down my face. I don't think there was a dry eye in the house on multiple occasions. When the show concluded, I couldn't help but think how emotionally draining it would be to perform it nearly ten times. Five shows remain with tickets available here.

Saturday night was also a night for Four Oaks to be spotlighted, one of the many wonderful organizations in our community that helps children.

The Four Oaks presentation and the entire night left me thankful for the resources our area has for those who struggle with mental health each day. It also made me realize there can never be enough.

The crowd Saturday evening wasn't quite full, and that's a shame. This is a show everyone should see. In my case, I walked out realizing just how lucky I am.

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