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.  

Congrats to the little show that could.  And did.

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.  

Before I saw Time Stands Still last Wednesday night, I saw Without You (part of this year’s NYMF) in the late afternoon at the TBG Theatre on 36th Street.  Without You is an autobiographical one-man show written and performed by the always-impressive Anthony Rapp.    I never got around to seeing it at Ars Nova or while on tour, so I was excited to see it.  

The action starts with Rapp being late to his audition for the original 1994 reading of Rent at New York Theatre Workshop.  He goes into detail about his life, love, the development of Rent, his blooming friendship with it’s author, Jonathan Larson, and most importantly, his relationship with his mother and her health declined after being diagnosed with cancer.  All the while the dialogue is broken up with songs from Rent or songs from his original album released in 2000 titled Look Around.  

Having read Without You (his book, released in 2006) and being a former “Renthead,” I knew most of the stories he told and of course, I knew all of the music.  It was really nice to hear songs from Look Around and seeing them performed helped put them in context.  Especially (the song) Always, which was always (no pun intended) a favorite of mine.  

Rapp was spot on with his portrayals of his mother, director Michael Grief, and Cy O’Neal (founder of Friends in Deed).  He transitioned characters with ease.  By the time Rapp sang Seasons of Love as a finale, he had the audience in his hands, all of whom stood when he bowed.

I’m not sure where this could go commercially because it’s such an intimate show it wouldn’t be appropriate to put in an 1100 seat Broadway house.  I think it would have a sold-out run at Roundabout’s black box theatre on 46th Street, or even more appropriately, it could be part of NYTW’s next season.  

There are still a number of performances left, but unfortunately they’re all sold out.  If you’re lucky though, you could grab a ticket if there are any cancellations prior to the show.  

(image via)

I hadn’t gone through my Playbill collection in probably 5 years and because it’s too hot to be outside today, I sat down, removed my Playbills down my bookcase and sorted.  

1. That’s all of the Playbill’s from the Broadway shows I’ve seen.  Notice the Glory Days Playbill on the top?  Sigh.  That’s maybe one of 7 that was printed.  My first Broadway show was CATS in 1994.

2. All of my off-Broadway Playbills.  I love Broadway, but I love off-Broadway as well.  I think my first off-Broadway show was De La Guarda in 2002 (that could be wrong, actually, I’m sure it’s wrong).  

3. Rent.  I think I saw Rent a total of 60 times on Broadway and once on tour (the first Non-Equity tour in New Brunswick, NJ and it was AWFUL).  That smaller pile is of the Playbills I have from Rent that I wasn’t actually at (back in the day I liked getting Playbill’s from shows I hadn’t been at – looking back, I can’t figure out why!).  

4. Shakespeare in the Park!  (L-R: Twelfth Night, HAIR (40th Anniversary Weekend), Two Gentleman of Verona, A Winter’s Tale, Hamlet, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and The Bacchae (the best thing about that show were Jonathan Groff glittery jeans).

  5. New York Musical Theatre Festival (better known as NYMF) from beginning and onwards.  I used to be diligent with seeing shows in NYMF every year but I’ve slacked off in recently years.  I really regret not seeing Feeling Electric (now known as Next to Normal) when it was at the festival in 2006 (year could be wrong!).  I’m excited to see what shows are chosen this year.  

6. Special events such as the TONYs, Easter Bonnets, Gypsy of the Year’s, Broadway Bares’, Broadway on Broadway, the Drama Desk Awards, and several benefit concerts.

7. New York International Fringe Festival… including two shows that I worked on (Beautiful & Ana 311) and the most memorable shows I ever saw at the Fringe, SILENCE! the Musical (a musical version of Silence of the Lambs) in 2005.