Helen Sjöholm in new musical about mental illness at Uppsala City Theater

Aftonbladet 200301


One of Sweden’s most loved singers, Helen Sjöholm, is Uppsala current with the award-winning musical Next to normal. A show about bipolarity and mental illness that will be staged at Uppsala City Theater this spring. Aftonbladet met Helen Sjöholm and the counterpart, musical star Rolf Lydahl.
– We have broken down in turns, cried and laughed a lot, the actors say.

Helen Sjöholm has been transformed into a ticket center, she says. She sits in a couch at Uppsala City Theater with opponent Rolf Lydahl and a huge package of envelopes and tickets in her arms. The clock is ticking, thank-you should be rehearsed, excited premiere mood prevails before the performance of Next to Normal. And the musical stars on the couch agree: it’s a dream musical and the characters Diana and Dan are dream roles.

– Everybody, no matter who you are, can find touch points in this musical. We have all failed, we may have lost someone or been involved in traumatic events that characterize one. That´s what makes it so poignant, Rolf Lydahl says.

– Really. Since we started rehearsing, we have broken down in turns, cried – but also laughed a lot, Helen Sjöholm says.

“Very fond of Uppsala”

It´s a modern musical, a chamber play. The story revolves around a family where mother Diana (Helen Sjöholm) is fighting with bipolarity. The relatives, husband Dan (Rolf Lydahl) and the couple’s children, commute with Diana between despair and manic happiness. The Broadway musical premiered in New York in 2008 and was awarded three Tony Awards and also the Pulitzer Prize. At Uppsala City Theater, it´s set up under the direction of Ronny Danielsson (…) The crowd pressure was fierce directly and Uppsala City Theater extended the play dates with several performances as early as December.

– Diana is having a tough time, Helen Sjöholm says, but I wonder if it isn´t the family members who are around who may have the toughest? You can’t evaluate who is feeling the worst, but this is how you are affected by living close to someone who is so unpredictable, growing up and having such a mother – what does it do to you?

This is the first time that both Helen Sjöholm and Rolf Lydahl are on stage at the Uppsala City Theater and have thereby joined the numerous commuters who travel daily between Uppsala and Stockholm.

– I felt at home here from the beginning, Helen says. I think it’s an incredibly nice theater. And commuting has gone great – so far, pepper, pepper. I´m very fond of Uppsala.



The actors describe intensive work with many challenges. On the spot during the rehearsals there was a psychiatrist who assisted in the management of the disease. But the performance doesn´t go in minor despite the heavy subject and lack of leg-kicking on stage.

– I think and hope you feel hope when the curtain goes down.

Not sentimental

Anyone who trembles in pining can exhale.

– It’s basically pop and rock, Helen says. Such a story could easily have been sentimental, it would have been easy to feel that it was being milked. But it doesn´t milk, it´s not tearing. It’s been a pleasure working with the music.

How is it with the temper so short before the premiere? They are. Completely. Exhausted. But at the same time – almost hovers with zeal.

– The rehearsals have been very intense and demanding, Helen Sjöholm says. You have to dig deep into yourself to reach these feelings, they can’t be cheated. So that’s why you are completely exhausted. But you also love the material, want to do it justice and tie as many knots around yourself. But now it’s time to relax and go for it (…)

(The entire article is not reproduced for copyright reasons)