From ‘Next to Normal’ to ‘If/Then’: The incomparable collaboration of Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey

Brian Yorkey and Tom Kitt

Brian Yorkey and Tom Kitt

They have Tony Awards and even a Pulitzer Prize recognizing their accomplishments but for their fans, Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey are much more than a top-notch collaborating team.

They are leaders, guides and truth-tellers.

The beauty of the Next to Normal score is the lyrics that resonate with the listener. It speaks to the superboy, the invisible girl and the part of all of us who are just trying to survive the day.

The electricity is found within the orchestration and music. The emotion is real; it far extends the perimeters of good music and speaks to the soul. It leaves little to the imagination of why this show was penned as Feeling Electric in its early stages.

It is also no surprise that Next to Normal has been translated into several languages around the world or that its fan base is just as passionate as it was while the musical was at the Booth Theatre from March 2009 to January 2011.

Next to Normal was the first show I ever wrote about professionally. I was an intern when the touring production was arriving in a city nearby the newspaper I was working for so I approached my editor with hopes of writing a short brief about why people should attend the show. I was already passionate about the musical and wanted to share my enthusiasm to hopefully sell a few more tickets to people who would also benefit from seeing the show.

I never wrote that brief about the show. Instead, I conducted an interview with Tony Award-winning actress Alice Ripley who originated the role of leading lady Diana Goodman that ran on the front page of the Arts section.

I attended the show on press tickets, also a first-time experience, and when I met Alice after the show I was thrilled by how incredibly kind and willing to chat with everyone she was.

To be able to say I got my start with such a tremendously powerful show still fills me with immense pride.

I listen to my Next to Normal cast recording almost daily. Whether I listen to just one song that really hits home with the mood I’m in or sit for hours listening to the lyrics and the music, it’s one of the musicals I cherish most.

And now, finally, Tom and Brian are working together to bring a new musical to the stage next spring.

If/Then is a new romantic musical about the collision between chance and choice, centering on a woman on the verge of turning 40 who moves to Manhattan intent on making a fresh start.

The musical’s leading lady is Broadway veteran and Tony Award-winning Idina Menzel. After ten years away from the stage, Idina, who is best known and loved for her roles as Maureen in Rent and Elphaba in Wicked, is back.

Michael Greif will direct the musical and David Stone is slated as the producer. Michael previously worked with Tom and Brian on Next to Normal and won a Tony Award for his direction of Rent. David was the producer of Next to Normal and Wicked.

These are incredibly talented professionals who understand each other and their leading lady. The only downside is waiting a year to see this masterpiece on the Broadway stage.

David Stone was the first producer who ever sent me a gift and inquired whether I would write about the traveling production of Wicked. As a fan of the musical and David’s work, there was no hesitation before I asked my editor if I could have the assignment.

Idina was another actress I was lucky enough to interview in my early career. I spoke to her to promote one of her symphony concerts and her recurring guest role as Shelby on Glee.  I remember the anxiety I felt moments before chatting with her; sweating palms, trembling from head to toe, the feeling of having a knot in the pit of my stomach.

And yet, when she answered the phone and I heard her voice, I instantly settled and spent an incredible almost half-hour chatting with her about music, her son and her uncertainty about when she would return to the Broadway stage.

Words cannot describe how excited I am about If/Then. It’s simply impossible for me to describe how thrilling it will be to hear another score created by Tom and Brian, especially when the lyrics will be sung by Idina.

But because it’s March 1, the day that Next to Normal fans have claimed as their own, I will say this: there is no other collaborating team like Tom and Brian.

It’s no misappropriation to say the reason Next to Normal has remained a living piece of musical theatre despite the end of its Broadway run is because of the magic and heart they created.

And now, with their new show on the way, it’s not a question of If but when I will see this brilliant new piece of theatre.

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About Samantha S.

"I found the theatre and I found my home.” ― Audra McDonald
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4 Responses

  1. I’m so excited for this show. I don’t want to wait!