‘Flashback Friday’: Two years later, ‘Next to Normal’ is still so alive

Let’s face it, some of our favorite shows are no longer headlining on Broadway. Whether they closed decades ago or just last week, StageDoorDish.com has a soft spot for shows of the past and will bring one back to life each week in this new column.

Aaron Tveit, Alice Ripley and J. Robert Spencer in Next to Normal.

Aaron Tveit, Alice Ripley and J. Robert Spencer in Next to Normal.


 It’s hard to believe that around this time four years ago, a small but highly-anticipated new rock musical was finally coming to Broadway after multiple workshops, readings, an Off-Broadway production and an out-of-town tryout in the Washington D.C. area.

Next to Normal, which tells the story of Diana Goodman and the effects of her bipolar disorder and depression on her family, was one of those shows with a brave and bold concept that refused to sugarcoat its heavy subject matter and was able to connect with its audience in a way that most shows wish to do. Often referred to as “electrifying,” Next to Normal certainly had a special spark about it. With its unapologetic approach to the harsh effects of mental illness, its brilliant rock score that told the story just as well, if not better, than the dialogue, and its relatable characters, the musical has been able to stick around in recent years through regional, touring, and international productions despite the fact that the show closed at the Booth Theatre on Jan. 16, 2011.

The combination of the powerful story with the rocking score connected with its audiences in ways that other musicals had not.

The original six-person Broadway cast, which consisted of Alice Ripley, who won a Tony in 2009 for her incredible and heartbreaking portrayal of Diana,  J. Robert Spencer, Aaron Tveit (who was most recently seen as Enjolras in Tom Hooper’s award winning film adaptation of Les Miserables), Jennifer Damiano, Adam Chanler-Berat and Louis Hobson,   also played a major role in the show’s success. The cast was absolutely outstanding and helped the already-fantastic musical become even better.

Though such an important show should still have a place on Broadway, Next to Normal did have an impressive and healthy run with over 700 performances. Next to Normal now even has a life outside of Broadway all around the world. That’s pretty remarkable for a musical that isn’t your ordinary big-budget and touristy production.

But for most of us, seeing Next to Normal isn’t always accessible. And that’s where the original Broadway cast recording, which is just as satisfying as seeing the show live, comes in handy. Whether on stage or on disc, this groundbreaking and poignant musical will live on forever.

What’s your favorite show from the past? Let us know and we might write about it next week!

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