Category Archives: Next to Normal

Tony Awards: Best Score

These are the songs that get stuck in your head as you leave the theatre, listen to original cast recordings of repeatedly and catch yourself spontaneously bursting into singing out loud. You have the nominees for Best Score to thank for all of it.

Best Score

Best Score (Clockwise, L to R)

Steven Lutvak and Robert L. Freedman – A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder

Chad Beguelin, Alan Menken (pictured) Tim Rice, Howard Ashman – Aladdin

Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey – If/Then

Jason Robert Brown – The Bridges of Madison County

Listen to selections from the nominated scores below!

The “If/Then” Original Cast Recording is currently streaming on the USA Today website

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Filed under Broadway In Chicago, New York, Next to Normal, The Last Ship, Tony Awards

A ‘Next to Normal’ Night at Broadway In Chicago

Last night was an incredible night. As I walked home from the theatre, I thought to myself, these are the treasured moments. The times where I get to see an audience moved beyond comprehension, where the walls of the theatre take in the emotion of the audience in a way that you imagine will never leave the building. There is a reason why this show won the Pulitzer – it is one of the most moving nights of theatre you will ever experience. If you have never seen it – no matter how busy you are this week – you simply must go. And if you have been to the show before, now is the time to see it again.

This is not a touring show – this is Broadway at its best In Chicago


‘Next to Normal’ at Bank of America Theatre: A musical perfect for difficult times 

THEATER REVIEW: “Next to Normal” ★★★★ Through May 8 at Bank of America Theatre, 18 W. Monroe St.; Tickets: $32 to $95 at 800-775-2000 and

“Can you keep the cup from tipping?” sing Diana and Dan, the loving but fraught married couple at the center of the emotionally wrenching musical “Next to Normal,” “Can you keep your grip from slipping?”

It’s just a rhetorical question in a clever song lyric, I suppose, but in modern-day America, a good many of us are not so sure. On some days, at least.

I’d had such a day Wednesday — when overextension comes uneasily close to panic, when the frowns of disappointed colleagues and family members start piling up, when a plethora of inconsequential but time-consuming trees fully obscure whatever woods might be visible this soggy April in Chicago. That could explain why “Next to Normal” hit me so hard Wednesday night, even though it was the second time I’ve seen the show. There are a lot of superlatives that can justly be applied to this contemporary musical from Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey, the winners of the 2009 Pulitzer Prize in drama, but surely no other musical has better caught the way we all now try to shove our family time into smaller and smaller boxes, ever more fractured, Blackberry-interrupted segments. Despite our self-assurances that we can have everything, we know that the inevitable consequence is increased isolation in a world where self-sufficiency is completely impossible.

It is concerned with mental illness, but “Next to Normal” is so moving because it paints a picture of a deeply loving suburban family (mother, father, son, teenage daughter), and then proceeds to reveal just had much they fail to help each other. Simple as that, really. Yet it socks you in the gut with the force of recognition.

If it were not for the ending — this was a Broadway musical, after all — you could almost consider “Next to Normal” a kind of communal tragedy. As this quartet — with occasional guest appearances by psychologists — try to figure out the right balance between filling your own needs and taking care of the needs of others (good luck with that), this show certainly sends your mind spinning down a lot of lines of existential questioning: Why is pain distributed so unequally across families? Do you always tell your loved ones the truth, even when it hurts them? Are painful memories always preferable to forgetting? How on earth do you move on from an agonizing loss without wiping its memory from your mind, and therefore wiping away your lost loved one at the same time? How? Huh? Huh?

But on deeper contemplation, I’ve come to think that my experience Wednesday had a lotmore to do with Alice Ripley. Ripley, who won the Tony Award for her performance as Diana Goodman, the central character of “Next to Normal,” and is starring in this top-drawer first national tour, has now disappeared so far inside her struggling, bi-polar character that it is as if she took one of the walks down the dark staircases that one of her procession of doctors, hypnotists and shrinks suggested, all in an attempt to arrive at some intersection between Diana and normal.

It is a wholly different experience from the one on offer in New York, a couple of nights before opening. Ripley and Diana are in a wholly different and far deeper place. There are a variety of opinions, there will always be a variety of opinions, about Ripley’s unusual vocal approach to this show. It breaks some of the usual rules. It does not blend. But then “Next to Normal,” which is about a family struggling with mental illness in its midst and is largely expressionistic, doesn’t work unless Diana is genuinely other and genuinely dangerous. Ripley is other and dangerous, all right. With every note that surges from her mouth. Not to mention confounding, quizzical, needy.

This a towering, gutsy, must-see performance — of the kind that a theater city like Chicago should support and that is rarely found in a modern touring show. But then this is the kind of rare tour that delivers the entire original experience — on balance, even a superior experience to the one on Broadway.

For his touring cast (only Ripley was part of the original Broadway cast), director Michael Greif has found comparably exquisite singers (this gently gorgeous, guitar-soaked score deserves no less) while moving noticeably closer to, well, normal.

On Broadway, I remember watching the glamorous Jennifer Damiano (now Mary Jane in “Spider-Man”) and thinking that her character’s problems would never be so bad. But Emma Hunton, who now plays the daughter Natalie, feels much more like a real teenager for whom life really could go either way. Asa Somers, who plays husband Dan, is every inch the standard suburban dad, well-meaning and fundamentally decent, but ill-equipped in so many ways, as many of us are. Curt Hansen also creates a more normal Gabe, if anything about his presence could be said to be normal. Preston Sadleir is guilelessly charming as Natalie’s well-meaning boyfriend, Henry. And Jeremy Kushnier — once the star of “Footloose,” now a dignified shrink — brings a new emotional force to a doctor doing his best but using only that to which he has access, which may not be any good at all.

Not for Diana, not for any of us for whom normal is both a pejorative and an aspiration.

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Filed under Broadway In Chicago, Chicago Tribune, Chris Jones, Next to Normal, Theater Loop

The great thing about my job…

Is that I get to work with producers, directors, and the people who create the shows that come to Chicago. Courageous human beings that bring together creative people like paints and combine them on a canvas known to us as a stage. They are people who know that theatre makes a difference in our world. They are young, old, male, female, part-genius, part-wizard, with a definite touch of insanity mixed in! But these are the people that make a difference in my life and the life of Broadway In Chicago.  These are the people that we work for – that we dance with – producers and creative directors are the ones we hope will love us and know we care about their shows as much as they do. We want them to bring their shows to our city, we want them to love our city, and to bring us the biggest, the best, the first, the never seen before – we count on them, they are our heroes.

Here I am with Jeannot Painchaud, co-founder and director of Cirque Éloize iD following a recent meeting to discuss how we are going to introduce Chicago to something they have never seen before.

Check this video out!

We’re getting ready to bring you several new shows over the next few weeks:

CIRQUE ÉLOIZE iD: April 26, 2011 – May 08, 2011

NEXT TO NORMAL: April 26, 2011 – May 08, 2011

PETER PAN: April 29, 2011 – June 19, 2011

And WORKING – extended by popular demand!

All before April ends!


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Filed under Broadway In Chicago, CIRQUE ÉLOIZE iD, Next to Normal, Peter Pan The Show, Working

time to move on…

9 TO 5's Diana DeGarmo performs the National Anthem before the Chicago Bulls victory on January 24

Chicago suffered a blow on Sunday. Okay, Green Bay won, but let’s look at the bright side… their fans now have to go back to Green Bay. All of us Chicagoans could turn around on Monday and go to the United Center to see Diana DeGarmo, one of the stars of 9 TO 5 THE MUSICAL, sing the National Anthem before a win for the Central Division leading Chicago Bulls over the Milwaukee Bucks.

Plus, all of us theater lovers have so much to look forward  to – nothing better to cure the football blues than to plan your February outing to the theater!

·        Burn the Floor begins February 1 (two weeks only!)

·        Les Miserables begins February 2 (four weeks only!)

·        Rain: A Tribune to the Beatles begins February 8 (ONE week only!)

·        Working begins February 15 (from the composer of WICKED!)

Before I leave you today, I want to share this story. Chicago Magazine wants to write an article on NEXT TO NORMAL but they won’t do it unless there is a Chicago connection – a cast member or someone involved in the production that lives in or is from Chicago. Sound familiar? I said to myself what is this thing about residency in Chicago – my reply is to tell them that Alice Ripley shares an apartment with Rahm Emanuel!  Chicago Magazine should run the story just because it is a great award-winning show – Best Original Score, Best Lead Actress in a Musical, and Best Orchestrations. And the accolades go beyond just the Tony Awards – it won the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for Drama!

The rest I leave to you….


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Filed under 9 To 5, Broadway In Chicago, Burn The Floor, Les Miserables, Next to Normal, RAIN: A Tribute to the Beatles, Working

what does the future hold

Hello from NY – what a weekend!

Sunday afternoon, I met Heather Schmucker, who we work with on a project that Broadway In Chicago is doing with American Musical Theatre Project at Northwestern. Together we saw GOD OF CARNAGE – produced by Stuart Thompson, who is also working on SHREK. All those stars on stage – Jeff Daniels, Hope Davis, James Gandolfini, Marcia Gay Harden – and a hilarious play! But the stars weren’t only on stage. Right next to me in the seat was Meg Ryan. Now that is a real bonus.

There are so many great shows that we are all hoping will tour and come to Chicago first or longest. Just a few:

What are you hoping for? At this point, all we can do is wait and see what develops.



Filed under American Musical Theatre Project, Billy Elliot the Musical, God of Carnage, Hair, New York, Next to Normal, Rock of Ages, West Side Story

a marvelous weekend

I had the perfect weekend!

Friday Night – attended Tommy at Circle Theatre in Forest Park. The show was great and the adult Tommy blew the audience away with an amazing performance. His name is Tom McGunn – and in addition to his amazing talent on stage, Tom has been a treasured marketing associate with Broadway In Chicago for over 4 years. Before that, he performed with my daughter in Joseph at the Chicago Theatre and Phantom at the Candlelight Playhouse.

Saturday – okay, let’s not talk about Saturday as it was all about getting caught up with e-mail – not very theatrical at all! However Sunday made up for it – the Sunday in June that every theatre Broadwayite (new term that was coined at the Tony’s!) waits with great anticipation.

It started off attending a reading of a musical in development called Harold and Maude (of the cult movie fame) at the home of director and Northwestern professor, David Bell. It was an intimate group of people – all theatre folk including Sandy Shinner from Victory Gardens, Bill Pullinsi from Theatre at the Center, and Libby Mages – Broadway Producer, among others. Kurt Johns, directed the piece and the show is written by Tom Jones who wrote the music for The Fantastiks. The cast was brilliant starring Renee Matthews but the stand out to me was her co-star Nathan Carroll, a recent graduate from Columbia College in Chicago and the most amazing young talent – and most importantly a valued usher for Broadway In Chicago.

Then at 7 pm, we had a Tony party with fellow Broadway In Chicago staffers and dinner by producer Tony D’Angelo (name-sake chef for the Tony’s and my adorable husband). We all thought it was one of the best Tony productions – lots of performances! Okay there were some sound problems but there was so much to look at – glittering stars, lots of people/producers that love Chicago and great performances, not-to-be-missed plays and even some stars from the shows you have or had in Chicago including our lead from Jersey Boys and Legally Blonde. Plus great performances by Shrek, soon to be at the Oriental Theatre, and our dear friend David Stone’s (producer of Wicked) Next to Normal (what an unbelievably moving show – even Elton gave a shout out to the composers), West Side Story (what a performance!), Rock of Ages and Hair (both rocked the house – and the TV viewing audience too – and hopefully rocking a Broadway In Chicago theatre soon!). Last but certainly not least, the 2009 Tony Award for Best Musical – BILLY ELLIOT! This is a shout out to the show’s producers: we so want this show to come to Chicago first before any other city outside of NY and for the longest time possible. Please send your pleas for the show to come here first and we will send them on to the producer!

High on Theatre,


P.S. Here is real insider scoop – there was a quick video teaser for the THE ADDAMS FAMILY but only for the audience members at the Tony’s. Click here and you too can be on the inside. And don’t forget to buy your tickets! THE ADDAMS FAMILY is on its way to being sold out!

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Filed under Billy Elliot the Musical, Broadway In Chicago, Hair, Jersey Boys, Legally Blonde The Musical, New York, Next to Normal, Rock of Ages, Shrek The Musical, The Addams Family, West Side Story