Broadway looses a little part of it’s soul (and sanity) tonight with Next to Normal closing. It’s had a fantastic, unbelievable, and unexpected two-year run, while winning 3 TONY Awards, and even a Pulitzer Prize for Drama.
I’m incredibly nostalgic about this closing but a friend reminded me that this was the little show that “defied odds and had a great run.” When you put it that way, there’s absolutely nothing to be sad about. When I think about Next to Normal, my one regret is the fact that I didn’t get to see it in it’s early stages when it was under the working-title Feeling Electric at NYMF in 2005. I had every intention to do so, but it sold out too quick and I was not yet a fan of buying tickets ahead of time. I was able to see it at Second Stage in 2008 though, and although some of the music was electrifying, the second act dragged and I never thought it was going to go anywhere so I was shocked to hear it was being taken to DC’s Arena Stages. It seemed like an unlikely step if they were on the road to Broadway but it ended up being a necessary one where they worked out all of the kinks that had been discovered in the material at Second Stage.
I took my mother to see Next to Normal on Broadway in 2009 for Mother’s Day. Many people have laughed when they heard this, but my mother wanted to see it, and who was I to deprive her of seeing a show that I was also slightly interested in seeing (and see what had changed)? The second act had definitely been cleaned up and the show was an entirely enjoyable and emotional roller coaster from start to finish. Their hiatus in DC had been what was needed. The above picture was taken that Mother’s Day in 2009 after the show of my friend Damien and I (come to think of it, it would’ve been much more appropriate to have gotten a picture of my mother and me but alas, can’t change that now).
I was really excited to have been introduced to the composer, Tom Kitt, a few days before the TONYs that year at his band’s concert (called The Tom Kitt Band) at The Bitter End (which was a hella good time) where he sang the much, much longer original version of “I Am the One” (from Next to Normal). I even geeked out for a moment when I remembered that Kitt wrote the score for the short-lived (awesome) musical version of High Fidelity (of which I was a huge fan). That concert ended up being a load of awesome and was totally worth getting home at 2am for (watch a video of the last half of the finale here). I asked Kitt to sign the setlist at the end of the night because he was such a totally talented rockstar. It’s been framed on my wall ever since.
I was rooting for Next to Normal at the Tony’s that year, and was thrilled when they won for Best Score, Best Orchestrations, and Best Actress in a Musical (everyone in the house was just as perplexed with Ripley’s acceptance speech as everyone watching at home was, don’t worry). Ultimately Billy Elliot took the big award home at the end of night unfortunately.
I saw Next to Normal again later in 2009, and once more at the end of 2010. I am incredibly happy that I was able to see it the few times I did. I debated going to the show once more this weekend, but decided against it. The last time I saw the show was incredible and I think “last show’s” are something to be savored by the super fans of a show, and the people who were involved in it’s creation. I would’ve felt slightly out of place.