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February 13, 2013

Troy brother and sister portray siblings in Meadow Brook play

By Terry Oparka
C & G Staff Writer

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Troy brother and sister portray siblings in Meadow Brook play
From left, Stephanie Wahl, Ryan Naimy, George Andrew Wolff and Jessica Naimy appear in the Pulitzer Prize-winning play, “Next to Normal,” at Meadow Brook Theatre through March 10.

Two Troy natives, Jessica Naimy and her brother Ryan Naimy, will take the stage at Meadow Brook Theatre cast as — brother and sister.

“We never dreamed we’d be cast together,” Jessica said. “They called us both in.”

Ryan said he couldn’t think of another time when a real-life brother and sister played a brother and sister on stage. 

The two will appear in the Michigan premiere of the 2010 Pulitzer Prize-winning play, “Next to Normal,” which will run through March 10 at Meadow Brook Theatre, on the campus of Oakland University.

The play tells the story of Diana, a mother in a “normal” suburban family who copes with her bipolar disorder.

“We’re excited to see this happen … actors growing up here, returning home to metro Detroit to share their talent,” director Travis Walter said in a prepared statement.

Ryan graduated from the International Academy in Bloomfield Hills in 2003, then earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in musical theater from Wesleyan University in Illinois in 2007. He’s lived in New York City and has appeared in plays in theaters around the country, including the national tour of “Curious George Live!” that played at the Fox Theatre in Detroit in 2010. He will appear in “Forever Plaid” this spring in Chicago, where he will make his home.

Jessica graduated from Troy Athens High School in 2006 and earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in musical theater from Emerson College in 2010. She lives in New York City and has appeared in the national tour of “South Pacific,” which played at the Fox Theatre in Detroit last year, and “A Chorus Line” at the San Diego Musical Theatre.

As youths, Jessica and Ryan started their acting careers at Stagecrafters in Royal Oak and Avon Players Community Theatre in Rochester. “Jessica and I never did a professional show together,” Ryan said.

They both said their love of musical theater began when their parents, Cindy and Mark, took them and younger sister, Julia, to shows at the Fox Theatre, Fisher Theatre and Michigan Opera Theatre in Detroit.

Also, the Naimys enjoyed watching classic movie musicals “Singing in the Rain” and “The Sound of Music” as a family.

Jessica and Ryan admit to squabbling a lot growing up. “Having that history was helpful,” Jessica said. Ryan explained that, as the play opens, the family is portrayed as “pretty normal.”

“By the end of the first act, you know the mother is struggling,” he said. The play contains a surprising twist, which Ryan and Jessica asked the Troy Times not to divulge.

More than 70 members of the extended Naimy family will pack the seats at Meadow Brook to see the brother/sister pair onstage.

Jessica and Ryan have been rehearsing eight hours a day, six days a week for the past two weeks to get ready for opening night Feb. 13.

“It’s been a really great experience,” Jessica said.

“Next to Normal” will run Feb. 13-March 10 at Meadow Brook Theatre, on the Oakland University campus in Rochester. The play contains mature language and situations, and is not recommended for children.

Tickets range $25-$40 and are available by calling the box office at (248) 377-3300, or visit www.ticketmaster.com. The production is made possible through support of Extended Stay Hotels and the Meadow Brook Theatre Guild. For additional information about Meadow Brook Theatre, visit www.mbtheatre.com.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Terry Oparka at toparka@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1054.