The folks at the City Theater in Biddeford are after something serious and substantial with their current production.

A musical about mental illness might not seem the easiest path to follow for a local company. But the Pulitzer- and Tony Award-winning show that just opened at the 120-year-old theater on Main Street provides all the basic ingredients, and the performers, under the direction of Linda Sturdivant, have boldly brought this show to life.

“Next to Normal” is one of the best of a new generation of musicals that address difficult issues and ask tough questions. The Tom Kitt (music) and Brian Yorkey (book and lyrics) show, meant for mature audiences, is full of powerfully moving songs and mixes in just a few ironic laughs that help to take it well beyond the typical theater piece with a message. The songs, drawing on rock, pop, folk, classical and jazz styles, lend themselves amazingly well to seamless storytelling while highlighting all the broader questions raised.

Diana, the main character of “Next to Normal,” suffers from bipolar disorder and is under heavy medications that, as the show begins, are barely helping her to keep her feet on the ground. She references her life experiences in terms like “the year of too much lithium” as she wanders about, trapped in an emotional middle ground from which she periodically erupts in bizarre ways. The fact that she’s haunted by a personal tragedy that feeds her illness becomes clear as the story progresses.

Rebecca Rinaldi takes the lead role and is thoroughly convincing as a middle-class wife and mother who feels only half alive. Her singing showed great dynamic range as required by numbers that took her from intimate reflection to soaring declarations. Her “I Miss the Mountains” was an early highlight as her character dealt achingly with the leveling effects of the pharmacological cocktail her doctor had prescribed. Her later duets with Brian McAloon, as her husband, Dan, and Joel Crowley as her son Gabe, were moving; she and her partners conveyed their anguish with both force and subtlety.

McAloon poignantly plumbs the desperation of a man trying to hold his family together. His touching take on “He’s Not Here” establishes an important story line, while his part in “Better Than Before” effectively mixes hopes and fears.

Crowley’s ambiguous character menaces Diana, offering her extreme solutions. He makes the most of a few slithery dance moves and several appropriately attention-grabbing vocals, as in “I’m Alive” and the creepy “There’s a World.”

Maddy Jarvis, as daughter Natalie, portrayed all the typical uncertainties of an adolescent, overlaid with the particular difficulties of dealing with an unstable home life. Jarvis, still a high school student, was a strong presence throughout, whether in duet with her smitten stoner boyfriend Henry, played by James Muller, on such gems as the witty “Perfect For You” or matched up with Rinaldi in the settling moment of “Maybe (Next to Normal).”

Seth Crockett rounded out the cast playing two doctors, one a laugh-inducing “Rock Star.” He excelled with the others in the ensemble number “Make Up Your Mind/Catch Me I’m Falling,” in which they brought their voices in and out of harmony to striking effect.

Director Sturdivant has the players kinetically populate the multilevel set designed by Karl Carrigan, offering varying locations for sometimes parallel actions by different individuals and groupings of performers. Bits of choreography by Mariel Roy help propel story exposition and mood. The lighting by Daniel Brodhead delineates and accentuates in all the right places, while the amplified sound by Todd Hutchisen brings the vocals out front. The costumes by Barbara Kelly are mostly suburban casual, and instrumental support by an ensemble directed by Denise Calkins sets the tone from the rear of the stage.

“Next to Normal” has been recognized internationally as a great musical for addressing important issues regarding mental health, its treatments and consequences in a highly creative and unflinching way. But it takes a strong production such as that now underway in Biddeford to fully reveal its power and touching beauty.

Steve Feeney is a freelance writer who lives in Portland.