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 around a mother who struggles with worsening bipolar disorder and the effects that her illness and its management have had on her family. The musical also addresses the issues of grief, suicide, drug abuse, ethics in modern psychiatry and the underbelly of suburban life.
Next to Normal received several workshop performances before its Off-Broadway debut, winning the Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding New Score and receiving Drama Desk Awards nominations for Outstanding Actress (Alice Ripley) and Outstanding Score. After an Off-Broadway run, the show played at the Arena Stage in its temporary venue in Virginia from November 2008 to January 2009.
The musical opened on Broadway in April 2009. It was nominated for eleven 2009 Tony Awards 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. The previous musical to win the Pulitzer was Rent in 1996, which was also directed by Michael Greif. 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."
Next to Normal has been called one of the best musicals of the 21st century and its soundtrack one of the best original soundtracks in a musical due to its graceful handling of its dark, complex subject matter and its moving and brutally honest exploration into pain.
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 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 a 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 the sons 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.
Note: The song titles are not listed in the program
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Next to Normal follows one woman’s struggle with mental illness and the effect of the illness on her whole family. Diana is the focus of a complex exploration into the “monstrous mother” trope frequently drawn on within the cultural contexts of film, television and theatre. The writers illuminated the experience of those suffering from bi-polar disorder. The success of this is debatable- depending on what side you approach this issue from, it can further stigmatize the sufferers of this illness through the attempt to realistically portray it, or it can be a relatable and comforting expression of what it feels like to live with on a daily basis. Kitt and Yorkey began writing the musical in 2002 and continued through 2008. There have since been changes in the mental health field with regards to the understanding and treatment of bipolar depressive disorder. In the show, according to Dr. Fine, Diana is said be a “bipolar depressive with delusional episodes”. While at the time that would have been an accurate diagnosis, things have changed, rendering that diagnosis invalid.
The American Psychiatric Association’s (APA) Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders is a book that outlines all mental disorders and the symptoms necessary for their diagnosis. The APA continually edits this to accommodate new discoveries in the field. In recent years, one of these changes was the changing of classification for bipolar disorder (what was previously known as bipolar depressive disorder or manic-depressive disorder is now known as either bipolar I or bipolar II). Due to this change, Diana would no longer be diagnosed with what Dr. Madden called “bipolar depressive disorder with delusional episodes,” but rather bipolar I with psychotic features—bipolar I referring to her disease and psychotic features referring to added psychotic features she undergoes, such as the hallucination of her grown son Gabe.
Bipolar I is a mood disorder that is characterized by alternating periods of depression with episodes of mania. The periods of depression are known as major depressive episodes. In simpler terms, mania, or a manic episode, is defined as a distinct period of time of an abnormally elevated mood that lasts for at least one week and is present for the majority of the day. In Next to Normal, Diana is seen during a manic episode when she is awake most of the night and during “Just Another Day”, when she makes an absurd amount of sandwiches in order to "get ahead on lunches", and later during “It's Going to Be Good” when she goes off her medication. Major depressive episodes are distinct periods of time in which a person suffers a bout of depression. These usually last at least two weeks and can cause the individual to have hypersomnia (sleeping too much), fatigue and loss of energy, and recurring thoughts of death or suicide. Those with the disorder often have periods of recovery between mood episodes. Additionally, the specifier “psychotic features” refers to psychotic symptoms—most often delusions and hallucinations—that are undergone in conjunction with the manic or major depressive episodes.
Bipolar I and II are difficult disorders to diagnose and are often undetected and misdiagnosed, therefore leaving the illness inadequately treated (Rivas-Vasquez et al., 2002). The average onset of bipolar I is around 18 years of age, but it is largely based upon the individual’s development. Additionally, bipolar I is believed to have some biological/genetic origin.
Bipolar I is a disease that has a profound effect on those diagnosed with the disease and their families. It is not a curable disease, and it is mostly treated through psychopharmacological, psychiatric, and biological means.
First, and arguably most popular, are the psychopharmacological therapies, commonly known as drug therapies. This involves the use of antipsychotic, anticonvulsant, and antidepressant medications, which aim to stabilize the patient's mood. Such drugs include Lithium, Ativan, Valproate, and Valium. This form of treatment is one of the two forms of therapy most prominently seen throughout Next to Normal. Although in Next to Normal Diana takes a plethora of different drugs at once, doctors do not always recommend patients taking so many different medications at once. The song “My Psychopharmacologist and I” is Diana walking through her drug therapies, with Dr. Fine adjusting medications to ultimately stabilize her. This form of treatment is also often accompanied by side effects ranging from drowsiness to sexual dysfunction, which are all seen at many points throughout the show.
Another form of treatment for bipolar I is psychotherapy. This is the type of therapy most often associated with mental illness, where patients talk to psychologists and aim to work through the psychological component of their disease. For bipolar I, patients work to maintain a healthy level of day-to-day functioning and learn to manage their manic and depressive symptoms. In Next to Normal this is seen through Diana’s sessions with Dr. Madden, her psychologist, where she talks through her struggle to cope with her loss of Gabe and memory.
The third form of treatment is biological treatments, such as Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT) in which seizures are induced by sending an electric current through the brain. This is the second most central form of treatment seen throughout Next to Normal. Diana is convinced to undergo ECT and then loses her memory (including her memory of Gabe), which she slowly gains back. ECT is not, however, a first-round option when it comes to the treatment of bipolar disorder. In fact, ECT is often viewed as a last resort option for treatment, usually considered for manic patients who are incredibly ill and extremely treatment-resistant or whose symptoms include very serious suicidal or psychotic symptoms, or in pregnant women. This practice holds true in Next to Normal where ECT is only brought up as a treatment option after Diana attempts suicide by cutting her wrists after being prompted by her hallucination of Gabe to kill herself to be with him (“I Dreamed a Dance”/”There’s a World”). It was only after Diana’s condition became resistant to drug therapy and she became severely suicidal that Dr. Madden suggested Dan talk to her about using ECT as a treatment option.
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 Greg 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.
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 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."
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 2009 Tony Awards. The initiative earned the musical the 2009 OMMA Award for Best in Show Situation Interactive.
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.
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.
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 Teatro Pérez Galdós in Las Palmas, Canary Islands, on September 14, 2017, with Nina starring as Diana. In 2016, in Portugal, opened a Portuguese-speaking version, with the title "Quase Normal".
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|
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.
|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|
|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|
|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 Wenland||Nominated|
|Best Lighting Design||Kevin Adams||Nominated|
|Best Sound Design||Brian Ronan||Nominated|
|2010||Pulitzer Prize for Drama||Won|