COLDWATER, Mich. — When Stephanie Burdick left Angola High School, Principal Travis Heavin explained to the Metropolitan School District of Steuben County Board of School Trustees that she had gotten her “dream job.”
“After this fall, it definitely will be,” said Burdick, as she drove from her day job at Tibbits Opera House in Coldwater, Michigan, to Jonesville, Michigan for rehearsals for “Mamma Mia.” The show premiered Thursday, with Burdick appearing as Donna, played by Meryl Streep in the movie.
“It’s a fun night at the theatre with a bunch of great ABBA songs,” said Burdick, who is on stage for the first time in around seven years. “Mamma Mia,” directed by Trinity Bird, opened Thursday and continues tonight and Aug. 15-17.
But that’s just the beginning for Burdick. At the end of next week, she said, she’ll make a “total 180.”
She has been cast in the lead role of “Next to Normal” at Tibbits Sept. 6-8 and 12-14. The dramatic rock musical is a partnership between ProMedica Coldwater Regional Hospital, Pines Behavioral Health and Tibbits Summer Theatre to shine a light on mental health issues.
Based on the book by Brian Yorkey, with lyrics by Brian Yorkey and music by Tom Kitt, “Next to Normal” won the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for drama and three 2009 Tony awards, including Best Musical Score. It includes mature content and language.
“’Next to Normal’ is a very real depiction of a family in crisis trying to overcome the past,” said a news release from Tibbits. “The story centers on a mother who struggles with worsening bipolar disorder and the effects that managing her illness has on her family. The musical addresses grief, depression, suicide, drug abuse, ethics in modern psychiatry and suburban life through humor and tears.”
“The music is fun, complicated, beautifully haunting at times,” said Burdick. “The story helps propel a discussion on mental illness, modern medicine techniques, grief and family dynamics. … Everybody’s struggling with something.”
Her ragged-edged character is part of a six-person cast. She said she looks forward to the challenging material.
“I love how the story is told, but it is told in a very non-linear, almost dream-like sequence of short scenes,” said director Charles Burr. “ I think we have designed a set that will help clarify the action. It has been a long time since I have been able to work on show that is highly dramatic, but has wonderfully humorous moments — you know — just like life.”
Rehearsal has been Burdick’s life lately and will continue through mid-September. The professional summer plays go from first walk-through to polished production in a couple of weeks.
Summer theater was one of the main draws for Burdick when she took the job at Tibbits. The last time she was on stage was 2013, when she acted in and directed a Popcorn Theater production.
Though she was only at AHS for a few years, Burdick made an impact as an English teacher and put pizzazz into the theater productions. She left for the job at Tibbits Opera House in Coldwater, Michigan, where she serves as director of operations.
She has been involved in professional, high school and community theater, including the former Steuben County theater group. During her six years teaching at Lakeland High School, Burdick helped create a successful drama program.
A Coldwater native, she became involved with theater at the age of 3 when she saw her first production at Tibbits. She started performing at 5 years old, and since then has been involved in more than 70 shows in one way or another as director, technical director, set designer, scenic artist, props mistress and actress. Her favorite roles have included Sally in “You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown,” the narrator in “Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat,” Dorothy in “The Wizard of Oz” and Rizzo in “Grease.”