The Media, Culture, and the Arts Program Presents Original Musical “NORMAL?”

"NORMAL?" was an original musical that explored how King's students sought a return to normalcy after the height of a worldwide pandemic.

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The Media, Culture, and the Arts Program at The King’s College presented an original musical entitled NORMAL? A New Musical on February 10-12 in the City Room on campus. The musical was devised by students of The King’s College, as they explored the theme of what it means to get back to normal towards the end of a life-changing global pandemic. The students wrote the scenes and some of the solo music and lyrics with help from Virginia Hart Pike, the show’s musical director, who also wrote the music and the lyrics to the opening and closing numbers. The piece was directed by Frank Mihelich, a visiting artist from Southern California.

In their written introduction to the musical, Faculty Producer Virginia Hart Pike and Executive Producer Dr. Henry Bleattler shared that in the spring musical they wanted to give King’s students the opportunity to express the full breadth of their talents through the creation of their own musical. They wanted to allow the students to be more than just musical theater performers, but also to be able to showcase their abilities as playwrights, poets, and song-writers. Pike and Bleattler shared that because they incorporated the students’ gifts into the creation of the musical, and not just its performance, “we believe the lasting value of that outweighs that of doing only tried-and-true pre-written works.”

The show addressed the students’ expectations and disappointments in returning to campus following the height of the pandemic, as they wrestled through the idea of what it meant to get back to normal. This theme was introduced in the musical’s opening number, entitled “Grasping for Normal.” During this song, the entire cast expressed a repeated desire for a return to normal, singing: “We are asking for, are hoping for, are searching for, are reaching for normal.”

The rest of the musical explored this theme as the performers shared their experiences as college students during the pandemic. There were songs about feeling the pressure of securing an internship and landing a post-graduation job, working through uncertain relationships with parents and family, and a desire to pick a skill like crocheting to make some extra money during a pandemic. The students used these situations to work through questions like, “What were your expectations in coming back to campus after the height of a global pandemic?” and “What disappointments did you face, and what kind of dialogue did that open up between you and God?” Through a variety of songs, the students expressed their fears and frustrations with society, God, and themselves, as well as their hopes and dreams for what a more normal future might look like.

The cast found resolution to their desires for normalcy in the musical’s final number. The cast began the song by reciting well-known Bible verses from the New Testament, such as “Do not worry about tomorrow for tomorrow will worry about itself,” before giving a book of Job-esque response from God’s perspective to the cast members’ desire for normalcy. God doesn’t ask us to give up a desire for normal but instead wants his children to invite him into the process of life. In the chorus, the cast members shared God’s response to their hope for normalcy, singing, “Only I can make it live, and only I can make it die. I can only resurrect it, if it’s mine to crucify.” This led to the culminating line of the musical: “Can’t you see, you were never meant to be, merely normal. You were made for me to recreate you every day.” In the end, God breaks our sense of what normal is so that He can be the only One to define what our lives should look like.

When asked about this final song, cast member Zoe Whitford (MCA ’24) said, “The idea was that there are all these questions that come up throughout the show, so the end is this resolution where we’re able to find that there is one God with the answers, even if we aren’t always sure that there is an answer.” She continued, “There’s something about being vulnerable to God and to your friends at the same time that feels really rare right now. (The show’s about) not being afraid of what the truth is and that God can handle the truth no matter how disgusting and complex and messy that it can be.”

Cast member Harrison Chapman (RTS ’22) said that the show was so meaningful for the cast members because most of them had now spent more time in college after the pandemic started than before it. He said it was especially helpful to think through these themes as he looked to the future, “What is post-grad going to look like? What is next year going to look like? How do we pick ourselves back up and move on from clinging to the idea that everything will be like it was before?”

Cast member Sarene Jackson (MCA ’24) shared that the musical was a great opportunity to build deeper connections with other King’s students. “I didn’t know everyone in the cast beforehand,” she said, “But after staying from 6 to 10 PM every night I got to know these people and became friends with them. I enjoyed the fact that we all put a little piece of our lives into this story. So it was really great to see all of our hard work and some of our soul go into this musical.”

Virginia Hart Pike accompanied the musical on piano, alongside Moses Kazanjian (BUS ’23) on the drums and Brandon Orr (BUS ’22) on the trumpet. Holly Thomas served as the supervising stage manager, Bentley Heydt was the lighting designer, Rochelle Thomas (ENG ’23) was the student producer, and Sofia Larez (PPE ’24) and Amara Pierre were student stage managers. The four shows were well attended by the entire King’s community of students, faculty, and friends.

In reflecting on the show, director Frank Mihelich said that he was “so proud of these amazing, emerging artists because of their immense creativity and work ethic. It was a joy to witness their courage to stay vulnerable as we worked together.” “This performance,” he continued, “Is a prayer to the God of the universe to lead us back to the solid ground found only in the gospel.”

Parents, alumni, and friends of the College are invited to donate to support musical theater offerings at King’s. At, select “musical theater” from the drop-down menu. The generosity of the King’s community makes performances like NORMAL possible.

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