Recent Posts

Thursday, April 16, 2009


Welcome to a finally new and updated look here. This is what you get thanks to a few hours of procrastination.

*     *     * 

Not so long ago, I was concerned about the future of Broadway due to what seemed like a mass exodus as shows were closing right and left. Between September 28, 2008 - January 18, 2009, Broadway saw thirteen shows close. Though I knew some great new revivals were scheduled to open, I was concerned by the lack of a quality original piece. Would the Great White Way be deluged by yet another jukebox musical or another based on a movie, tv show?  Though I loved seeing some of my favorite shows revived, I was still interested in seeing stories that new writers could create.  Was it that tough to mount something original again and was our struggling economy to blame?  

Thanks to next to normal, I am no longer questioning the future of the American musical.  As excited as I was about my beloved [title of show] last season, I have to say I am even more thrilled about the spectacular musical, next to normal.  [title of show] was a quirky, fun and in some ways a nostalgic show that reminded us of who we are and what it takes to achieve our dreams, but next to normal which is an entirely different kind of show and yet is one that just excites me!

next to normal shows the lengths to which two parents will go to keep themselves sane and their family’s world intact. With a provocative contemporary score of more than 30 original songs, this groundbreaking new musical explores how one suburban household copes with crisis.
From the producer of WICKED and the director of RENT, and starring Tony Award® nominee Alice Ripley, next to normal arrives on Broadway straight from its sold-out engagements at both NY’s Second Stage Theatre and DC’s Arena Stage.
The above blurb from the show's website doesn't give away anything plot-wise, nor does it come close to accurately describing what next to normal is about.  What next to normal is, is an incredible small, story-driven show with electrifying talent and beautifully written music and lyrics.  In an era when both Hollywood and Broadway are keen on big, over-the-top money making films and shows, it is always refreshing when success finds a film/show because it is a quality piece of work from all angles.  Broadway (and Hollywood) are obviously businesses that need to make money in order to survive, but sometimes I am bothered when I think choices are made purely in terms of money instead of choosing something in which I wonder if artistic value was ever considered.  

I first discovered next to normal in its workshopped form, when it was called "Feeling Electric" (2002) which later moved to the NY Musical Theater Festival in 2005.  It was the 2002 workshop version that I fell in love with next to normal.  Back then, the story was so different and the dynamics between the family members weren't as flushed out or solid but the concept and storyline were apparent and the music was still beautiful.  A song I particularly appreciated -- Funny Love -- has since been cut from the Broadway version, but it was so beautiful and described the relationship between the couple, Dan & Diana (this was during a version of the show when I don't think the characters actually had names yet).  As much as I appreciated the song & miss it from the final version of the show, it just doesn't fit into this incarnation of the show.

On April 15,  next to normal  opened to great reviews with (mostly) the same cast as the Arena Theatre production.  Notably missing is Brian d'Arcy James (replaced by J. Robert Spencer) who had a previous engagement as the title role in Shrek the Musical.  Personally, I think the characters in  next to normal are so complex and meaty that it would be a shame to have to give up.  Though I love Brian d'Arcy James and was so sad to see him leave the role of Dan, I just  love the casting of  J. Robert Spencer and am more than pleased with his take on the role.  The casting of the other roles I think were well chosen and I can only say so much about it having not actually seen the show yet.  Having said that, I think it should be known that Alice Ripley undeniably deserves a Tony Award.

Alice Ripley is truly a force to be reckoned with.  She plays such a challenging character with such complex emotions between two opposite ends of the spectrum every night.  My god, just hearing her in the cast recording of this show not only moves me, but allows anyone to hear how powerful an actress she is.  In every single song on the cast recording, her pain, struggle, joys, fears, sorrows, quirkiness are all more than apparent and well performed. If I can get this from the audio, imagine how powerful she is in person?!  I've been a fan of her for years and to quote Hunter in [title of show] she really is "fierce!"

Need I say more?  If you need more proof, see the video preview courtesy of and then get tickets.


Related Posts with Thumbnails