Next to Normal
Next to Normal (stylized as next to normal) is a 2008 American rock musical with book and lyrics by Brian Yorkey and music by Tom Kitt. The story centers on a mother who struggles with worsening bipolar disorder and the effects that managing her illness has on her family. The musical addresses grief, depression, suicide, drug abuse, ethics in modern psychiatry, and the underbelly of suburban life.
|Next to Normal|
Broadway promotional poster
2010 US Tour
|Awards||Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding New Score|
Tony Award for Best Original Score
Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical
Tony Award for Best Orchestrations
Pulitzer Prize for Drama
Before its Off-Broadway debut, Next to Normal received several workshop performances and won the Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding New Score and received Drama Desk Awards nominations for Outstanding Actress (Alice Ripley) and Outstanding Score. After its Off-Broadway run, the show played from November 2008 to January 2009 at the Arena Stage while the theater was in its temporary venue in Virginia.
The musical opened on Broadway in April 2009. It was nominated for eleven Tony Awards that year and won three: Best Original Score, Best Orchestration, and Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical for Alice Ripley. It also won the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, becoming the eighth musical in history to receive the honor. Rent, which was also directed by Michael Greif, was the last musical to win the Pulitzer, in 1996. In awarding the prize to Kitt and Yorkey, the Pulitzer Board called the show "a powerful rock musical that grapples with mental illness in a suburban family and expands the scope of subject matter for musicals."
The first US national tour launched in November 2010, with Alice Ripley reprising her Broadway role; the tour concluded in July 2011. The Broadway production closed in January 2011 after more than 700 performances. There have been numerous international productions.
Suburban mother Diana Goodman waits up late for her curfew-challenged son and attempts to comfort her anxious and overachieving daughter, Natalie. In the early morning, their son returns, and Dan, Diana's husband, rises to help prepare the family for the day ("Just Another Day"). Everything appears normal until Dan and Natalie realize that the sandwiches Diana is making are covering every surface in the kitchen. As Dan helps the disoriented Diana, the kids hurry off to school. Natalie escapes to the refuge of the piano practice room ("Everything Else") and is interrupted by Henry, a classmate who likes to listen to her play and who is clearly interested in her.
Over the ensuing weeks, Diana makes a series of visits to her doctor, while Dan waits in the car outside questioning how to cope with his own depression. Diana has suffered from bipolar disorder and psychosis for the past sixteen years. Her doctor continually adjusts her medications, with various side effects, until she says she doesn't feel anything, at which point he declares her "stable" ("Who's Crazy" / "My Psychopharmacologist and I"). Natalie and Henry grow closer until one day he professes his love for her ("Perfect for You") and they kiss for the first time. Diana, witnessing this, worries her best years may be behind her ("I Miss the Mountains"). With her son's encouragement, she flushes away her medication.
A few weeks later, Dan looks forward to dinner with his family ("It's Gonna Be Good"), to which Henry has been invited, much to Natalie's dismay. He happily recounts how Diana has been energetic and in a great mood for the past weeks, but when Diana emerges with a cake singing "Happy Birthday" to her son, Dan and Natalie are devastated. Dan carefully reminds her that their son died sixteen years ago when he was an infant ("He's Not Here"). Dan mentions a return to the doctor, but Diana refuses, saying Dan can't possibly hurt the way she does ("You Don't Know"). Dan tries to coax her into trusting him while their son tries to convince his mother to listen to him instead ("I Am the One"). In her room, Natalie vents her anger to Henry and then refuses Diana's halfhearted apology as her brother watches and taunts her ("Superboy and the Invisible Girl").
A few days later, Diana starts work with Doctor Madden, attempting a drug-free treatment. As her son tries to assert his presence ("I'm Alive"), Dan and Natalie doubt the sessions are helping. After an argument, Natalie begins experimenting with her mother's old prescription medications. Doctor Madden proposes hypnosis to help Diana discover the roots of her trauma. The therapy is emotionally draining and Dan worries that it is too much of a strain on her mental health, while Natalie bombs an important piano recital when she realizes her mother is not present ("Make Up Your Mind" / "Catch Me I'm Falling"). Finally, Diana agrees it's time to let her son go. Diana goes home to clean out her son's things, pausing to listen to a music box ("I Dreamed a Dance"). Her son dances with her and invites her to 'go away with him' ("There's a World"). She attempts suicide and is hospitalized.
At the hospital, Diana lies sedated and restrained, with self-inflicted gashes to her wrists. Doctor Madden explains to Dan that ECT is the standard course of treatment for drug-resistant patients who are at high risk of suicide. Dan goes home to clean up after Diana and barely avoids a breakdown ("I've Been"). The next day, Doctor Madden proposes the treatment to Diana, and she reacts angrily, comparing the treatment to the lobotomies performed in the movie One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest ("Didn't I See This Movie?"). Dan arrives and manages to convince her that it may be their last hope ("A Light in the Dark").
Diana receives a series of ECT treatments over two weeks. Meanwhile, Natalie explores clubs and drugs, seemingly sharing a hallucination with her mother. ("Wish I Were Here"). Diana returns home from the hospital, but she has lost nineteen years of memory ("Song of Forgetting"). At school, Henry confronts Natalie about her avoiding him, and invites her to the spring formal dance ("Hey #1").
Dan and Diana visit Doctor Madden, who assures them some memory loss is normal ("Seconds and Years") and encourages Dan to use photos, mementos, and the like to help Diana recover. Dan gathers the family to do so ("Better Than Before"), with minor success. When Natalie pulls the music box from a pile of keepsakes, he whisks it away, leaving Diana puzzled. Her son appears, unseen ("Aftershocks"), while Diana tells Dan there's something she's desperate to remember that's just beyond her reach. When Henry arrives looking for Natalie, Diana pauses, studying his face and asking his age. He reminds her of someone. Unnerved, Henry hurries up to Natalie's room, to convince her to join him at the dance the next night ("Hey #2").
Diana returns to Doctor Madden ("You Don't Know" [Reprise]), and he asks Diana about memories of her son, not knowing that Dan has purposely avoided mentioning him. Doctor Madden suggests she further explore her history and talk more with her husband. Diana goes home and searches through the boxes of keepsakes, finding the music box. Dan tries to stop her, but the memories of their baby son rush back ("How Could I Ever Forget?"). Diana confesses remembering her son as a teenager. Dan also realizes that their son's death was the start to all their troubles. Diana demands to know his name, but Dan refuses and instead insists they need to return for more treatment ("It's Gonna Be Good" [Reprise]). Henry arrives to pick up Natalie, who has dressed for the dance, just in time for both of them to witness an agitated Dan grab the music box from Diana's hands and smash it to pieces on the floor.
Diana confronts Dan, wondering why he perseveres after how much trouble she's given, while upstairs, Natalie asks Henry the same question ("Why Stay?"). Dan answers, echoed by Henry, both vowing to stay steadfast ("A Promise"). As both couples embrace, Diana and Dan's son reappears ("I'm Alive" [Reprise]), which sends Diana running to Doctor Madden.
Diana asks Doctor Madden what can be done if the medicine won't work. She realizes that it is not her brain that's hurting, but her soul ("The Break"). Madden assures her relapse is common and suggests more ECT ("Make Up Your Mind" / "Catch Me I'm Falling" [Reprise]). Diana refuses. Doctor Madden urges her to continue treatment for her chronic, deadly disease. She thanks him and leaves. Natalie, waiting outside, is distressed to learn her mother has stopped the treatment. Diana explains ("Maybe [Next to Normal]"), opening up to her daughter for the first time. She urges Natalie to go to the school dance, where Henry awaits to comfort and embrace her ("Hey #3" / "Perfect for You" [Reprise]).
Diana tells Dan she is leaving him, explaining he can't always be there to catch her. She needs to take a risk and deal with things on her own ("So Anyway"). She goes and leaves their son with Dan. As Dan wonders how she could have left him after he stood by her for so long, their son approaches and tells Dan he's not going anywhere ("I Am the One" [Reprise]). Dan grows more distraught until at last he faces the boy and calls him by his name for the first time: Gabe.
Natalie comes home to find her father sitting alone in the dark, in tears. She comforts him and turns on the lights in the room, before assuring him the two of them will figure things out ("Light"). Henry arrives to study. Natalie tells him Diana has gone to stay with her own parents. Dan visits Doctor Madden hoping to talk about Diana, but Madden instead offers him the name of another mental-health worker. Diana appears, alone and still hurting, but hopeful.
Note: These descriptions come from the Characters section in the script.
- Diana: "Sexy. Sharp. Delusional bipolar depressive. Thirties or forties."
- Gabe: "Diana's son. Dashing. Gentle. Bright. Playful. Everything a mother would want. Almost eighteen."
- Dan: "Diana's husband. Handsome. Genuine. Constant. Tired. Thirties or forties."
- Natalie: "Diana's daughter. Sixteen and trying to be perfect. It's not going well."
- Henry: "Musician. Romantic. Stoner. Slacker. Philosopher king. Seventeen."
- Doctor Madden (Doctor Fine): "On the young side of ageless. Assured. A rock star."
Note: The song titles are not listed in the program
Depiction of mental illnessEdit
Next to Normal follows the struggle of one woman, Diana Goodman, with mental illness and the effect of the illness on her whole family. In the second act, these effects are at times diminished and other times exacerbated by the fact that Diana additionally suffers memory loss following electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). Kitt and Yorkey began writing the musical in 2002 and continued through 2008, but there have since been changes in the understanding and treatment of bipolar depressive disorder. In the show, Diana's doctor describes her as a "bipolar depressive with delusional episodes", however, the most recent edition of the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) would now diagnose Diana as bipolar "with psychotic features", referring to the hallucinations she experiences, such as of her dead son Gabe in the form of a teenager. The disorder is also now separated into bipolar types I and II.
Bipolar disorder is a disease of both mania (or hypomania) and depression that is not curable, mostly treated through psychopharmacological, psychiatric, and biological means. First, are the psychopharmacological therapies, commonly known as drug therapies, which involves the use of antipsychotic, anticonvulsant, and antidepressant medications, that aim to stabilize the patient's mood. Such drugs include Lithium, Ativan, and Valium, all of which are mentioned in the lyrics, particularly in the song "My Psychopharmacologist and I", in which Diana is prescribed a plethora of different drugs at once, which are mentioned alongside their side-effects, ranging from drowsiness to sexual dysfunction. Another form of treatment the play explores is psychotherapy, where patients talk to psychologists and aim to work through the psychological component of their disease through conversation; Diana's psychologist leads her through a guided meditation or hypnotherapeutic approach. The third form addressed is electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) in which seizures are induced by sending an electric current through the brain. Following a suicide attempt, Diana is convinced to undergo ECT and then loses her memory (including her memory of Gabe), which she slowly gains back in talks with her family. ECT is often viewed as a last-resort option for manic patients who are incredibly ill and extremely treatment-resistant or whose symptoms include very serious suicidal or psychotic symptoms, or for pregnant women. This practice holds true in the play, in which ECT is only recommended after Diana's hallucination of Gabe suggests that she kill herself in the song "There's a World".
The musical began in 1998 as a 10-minute workshop sketch about a woman undergoing electroshock therapy, and its impact on her family, called Feeling Electric. Yorkey brought the idea to Kitt while both were at the BMI Lehman Engel Musical Theatre Workshop. Kitt wrote a rock score for the short piece, which was highly critical of the medical treatment. Both Yorkey and Kitt turned to other projects, but they "kept returning to Feeling Electric", eventually expanding it to a full-length musical. This had a reading in 2002 at the Village Theatre in Issaquah, Washington, then at several venues in New York City, with a cast that included Norbert Leo Butz as Dan, Sherie Rene Scott as Diana, Benjamin Schrader as Gabe, Anya Singleton as Natalie and Greg Naughton as Dr. Madden. A subsequent staged reading was held in late 2002 at the Musical Mondays Theater Lab in New York.
In 2005 it was workshopped again at Village Theatre starring Amy Spanger as Diana, Jason Collins as Dan, Mary Faber as Natalie and Deven May as Dr. Madden. In September 2005, the musical ran at the New York Musical Theatre Festival, with Spanger as Diana, Joe Cassidy as Dan, Annaleigh Ashford as Natalie, Benjamin Schrader as Gabe and Anthony Rapp as Dr. Madden. This attracted the attention of producer David Stone. Second Stage Theatre then workshopped the piece in both 2006 and 2007, featuring Cassidy and then Gregg Edelman as Dan, Alice Ripley as Diana, Mary Faber and then Phoebe Strole as Natalie, Rapp as Dr. Madden/Dr. Fine and Skylar Astin as Henry. Meanwhile, at the urging of Stone and director Michael Greif, who had joined the team, the creators focused the show on the family's pain rather than on the critique of the medical establishment.
Off-Broadway and Virginia (2008–09)Edit
Next to Normal was first produced Off-Broadway at the Second Stage Theatre from January 16 through March 16, 2008, directed by Greif, with Anthony Rapp as assistant director and musical staging by Sergio Trujillo. The cast featured Ripley as Diana, Brian d'Arcy James as Dan, Aaron Tveit as Gabe, Jennifer Damiano as Natalie, Adam Chanler-Berat as Henry and Asa Somers as Dr. Madden/Dr. Fine. The surname of the family was changed from Brown to Goodman. Although the show received mixed reviews, at least one reviewer criticized it for pushing an irresponsible message about the treatment of bipolar disorder and for failing to strike the proper balance between pathos and comedy. The critics found the show internally confused, and the team decided to make major changes in both the book and score, including eliminating the original title song, "Feeling Electric". They concentrated the story entirely on the emotions of Diana and her family as they confront bitter truths.
The re-written musical was given a regional theatre production at the Arena Stage (normally in Washington, D.C. but operating in Virginia during a renovation of its main facility), from November 21, 2008 through January 18, 2009, under the direction of Greif. J. Robert Spencer took over the role of Dan while Louis Hobson assumed the roles of Dr. Madden/Dr. Fine; the remaining Off-Broadway leads returned. The production received rave reviews, with critics noticing that "comic songs and glitzy production numbers" had been replaced by songs that complemented the emotional content of the book.
Next to Normal began previews on Broadway at the Booth Theatre on March 27, 2009, with an opening night of April 15. The entire cast from the Arena Stage production returned, once again under the direction of Greif. The musical was originally booked for the larger Longacre Theatre, but, according to producer David Stone, "When the Booth Theatre became available... we knew it was the right space for Next to Normal".
Reviews were very favorable. Ben Brantley of The New York Times wrote that the Broadway production is "A brave, breathtaking musical. It is something much more than a feel-good musical: it is a feel-everything musical."Rolling Stone called it "The best new musical of the season – by a mile." Next to Normal was on the Ten Best of the Year list for 2009 of "Curtain Up".
The show set a new box office record at the Booth Theatre for the week ending January 3, 2010, grossing $550,409 over nine performances. The previous record was held by the 2006 production of Brian Friel's Faith Healer, with a gross of $530,702. One year later, Next to Normal broke that record again during its final week on Broadway (week ending January 16, 2011) grossing $552,563 over eight performances. The producers recouped their initial investment of $4 million a few days after the production's one-year anniversary on Broadway. At the end of its run, Next to Normal grossed $31,764,486, the most out of all the shows that have run at the Booth Theatre, earning double the amount of money as its closest competition, I'm Not Rappaport.
Cast replacements during the run included Marin Mazzie as Diana, Brian d'Arcy James and later Jason Danieley as Dan, Kyle Dean Massey as Gabe and Meghann Fahy as Natalie. John Kenrick wrote in November 2010 that the show "is glowing with breathtaking brilliance as it ends its Broadway run."
Twitter promotional campaignEdit
In May 2009, about six weeks into the Broadway run, Next to Normal began publishing an adapted version of the script over Twitter, the social media network. Over 35 days, the serialized version of the show was published, a single line from a character at a time. The Twitter promotion ended the morning of June 7, 2009, the morning of the 63rd Tony Awards. The initiative earned the musical the 2009 OMMA Award for Best in Show Situation Interactive.
First national tour (2010–11)Edit
Next to Normal began its first national tour of North America and Canada at the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles, California on November 23, 2010. The tour played in 16 cities in the U.S., ending in Toronto, Ontario, Canada on July 30, 2011. Alice Ripley reprised her role as Diana and was joined by Asa Somers as Dan, Emma Hunton as Natalie, Curt Hansen as Gabe, Preston K. Sadleir as Henry and Jeremy Kushnier as Dr. Madden/Dr. Fine.
Note: The following are independent productions of the musical produced internationally and in most cases, in that native language. They also feature the original music, lyrics and book, but changes in other aspects including direction, set design, costume design and choreography.
The European premiere and the first non-English language production opened in September 2010 at the Det Norske Teatret in Oslo, Norway under the direction of Svein Sturla Hungnes. The cast included Heidi Gjermundsen Broch as Diana and Charlotte Frogner as Natalie Broch received the 2011 Hedda Award (Norway's highest theatrical accolade) for her portrayal. This production was later re-staged for a Swedish premiere at the Wermland Opera A Finnish production opened in December 2010 in Helsinki, Finland at Studio Pasila, where it ran for one year. A Swedish-language production opened in September 2012 at Wasa Teater in Vaasa, Finland. The cast included Anna-Maria Hallgarn as Diana. Another Finnish-language production was staged at the Tampere Workers' Theatre from October 2012 through February 2013. A Danish production ran from February 2012 until April 2012 at Nørrebro Teater in Copenhagen, Denmark.
The Asian premiere was staged at the Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium, RCBC Plaza, Makati, Philippines in March 2011 and again in October 2011. The cast included Markki Stroem as Henry. Kolleen Park played Diana in the 2011 Korean production Next to Normal premiered in Singapore on September 5, 2013, at the Drama Centre Theatre. The cast included Sally Ann Triplett as Diana, Adrian Pang as Dan, and Nathan Hartono as Gabe.A Chinese production premiered in Beijing, China, on August 3, 2018, and later played in Shanghai in December.
The Australian premiere of the musical by the Melbourne Theatre Company was staged in Melbourne, Australia. Performances began on April 28, 2012, and ran through June 4 (extended from May 28). The cast included Kate Kendall as Diana, Matt Hetherington as Dan and Bert LaBonte as Dr. Fine/Dr. Madden.
A Spanish-language Peruvian premiere of the musical played the Teatro Marsano, in Lima, Peru. The production ran from May to June 2011. The cast included Gisela Ponce de León as Natalie The Argentinian adaptation, titled "Casi Normales", played Buenos Aires from January 3, 2012 to April 5, 2015. The cast included José Luis Bartolilla as Gabe. A Brazilian production opened in July 2012 at the Clara Nunes Theatre in Rio de Janeiro, under the title "Quase Normal", which translates Almost Normal. A Mexican production opened at the Teatro Aldama in Mexico City on January 31, 2019, starring Susana Zabaleta as Diana.
The Dutch premiere took place on January 16, 2012 at DeLaMar Theater in Amsterdam. The cast included Simone Kleinsma as Diana. A German-language production opened at the Stadttheater in Fürth, Bavaria, on October 11, 2013. Pia Douwes starred in the role of Diana with Thomas Borchert as Dan. The Italian version of the show, produced by STM and directed by Marco Iacomelli, opened on March 7, 2015 at Teatro Coccia in Novara. A Spanish-language production opened at the Teatro Pérez Galdós in Las Palmas, Canary Islands, on September 14, 2017, starring Nina as Diana, and then it toured through Spain with stops at Barcelona, Bilbao, and Madrid. In 2016, in Portugal, opened a Portuguese-speaking version, with the title "Quase Normal". A Russian-language production ("Недалеко от Нормы"), directed by Anastasia Grinenko, opened in Minsk, Belarus on March 28, 2018, with Svetlana Matsievskaia starring as Diana.
Note: Below are the principal casts of all official major productions of the musical.
|Role||Original Broadway Cast||Original US Tour Cast|
|Diana Goodman||Alice Ripley|
|Dan Goodman||J. Robert Spencer||Asa Somers|
|Natalie Goodman||Jennifer Damiano||Emma Hunton|
|Gabriel "Gabe" Goodman||Aaron Tveit||Curt Hansen|
|Henry||Adam Chanler-Berat||Preston K. Sadleir|
|Dr. Fine/Dr. Madden||Louis Hobson||Jeremy Kushnier|
- Notable Broadway replacements
Literary references and allusionsEdit
- During Act I, Gabe reads a paperback copy of The Catcher in the Rye. Kyle Dean Massey said, "I read about a page a night." Salinger's novel about grieving a loss is read by the character who is the loss. In Catcher, Holden struggles with the loss of a brother, Allie, who died of leukemia.
- When sorting through a box of items from her son's room, Diana picks up a music box from the box to reveal a copy of Goodnight Moon underneath.
- Natalie carries a hardcover copy of Flowers for Algernon, which she is studying in school. Both the novel and "Next to Normal" deal with psychological experimentation.
- Diana alludes to One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Sylvia Plath, and Frances Farmer in the song "Didn't I See This Movie?".
- Diana also reads from Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, a play by Edward Albee which deals with marital stress caused by issues similar to some in "Next to Normal". On her YouTube site, Alice Ripley said that she uses Albee's play as a Bible, drawing inspiration for Diana.
Pulitzer Prize controversyEdit
Next to Normal won the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for Drama although it was not on the shortlist of three candidates submitted to the twenty-member Pulitzer Prize board by the five-member Drama jury. Jury chairman and critic Charles McNulty publicly criticized the Board for overlooking those three plays, which were not running on Broadway at the time of the Award, in favor of one that was.
Major awards and nominationsEdit
Original Off-Broadway productionEdit
|2008||Drama League Awards||Distinguished Production of a Musical||Nominated|
|Distinguished Performance Award||Brian d'Arcy James||Nominated|
|Drama Desk Award||Outstanding Actress in a Musical||Alice Ripley||Nominated|
|Outstanding Music||Tom Kitt||Nominated|
|Outer Critics Circle Awards||Outstanding Actress in a Musical||Alice Ripley||Nominated|
|Outstanding New Off-Broadway Musical||Nominated|
|Outstanding New Score||Won|
|The Lucille Lortel Awards||Outstanding Musical||Nominated|
|Outstanding Featured Actor||Aaron Tveit||Nominated|
|Outstanding Lighting Design||Kevin Adams||Nominated|
Original Virginia productionEdit
|2009||Helen Hayes Awards||Outstanding Non-Resident Production||Won|
|Outstanding Lead Actress, Non-Resident Production||Alice Ripley||Won|
|Outstanding Lead Actor, Non-Resident Production||J. Robert Spencer||Nominated|
|Outstanding Supporting Performer, Non-Resident Production||Jennifer Damiano||Nominated|
Original Broadway productionEdit
|2009||Tony Award||Best Musical||Nominated|
|Best Book of a Musical||Brian Yorkey||Nominated|
|Best Original Score||Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey||Won|
|Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical||J. Robert Spencer||Nominated|
|Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical||Alice Ripley||Won|
|Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical||Jennifer Damiano||Nominated|
|Best Direction of a Musical||Michael Greif||Nominated|
|Best Orchestrations||Michael Starobin and Tom Kitt||Won|
|Best Scenic Design||Mark Wendland||Nominated|
|Best Lighting Design||Kevin Adams||Nominated|
|Best Sound Design||Brian Ronan||Nominated|
|2010||Pulitzer Prize for Drama||Won|
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- Official Website
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- Twitter Performance Transcript
- Lortel Archives listing
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- German Website
- Argentina Website
- Italian Website