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BWW Blog: Why Next to Normal Deserves a Revival When Broadway Reopens

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I think we’re long overdue for a revival of Next to Normal.

In January 2021, I had the privilege of witnessing the Kennedy Center's performance of Next to Normal starring Rachel Bay Jones, Brandon Victor Dixon, Maia Reficco, Khamary Grant, Michael Park, and Ben Levi Ross. The whole thing was incredible, and it was my greatest hope that it would one day soon transfer to Broadway-and hopefully with that particular cast. But then, of course, COVID struck. And Broadway shut down.

I don't actually know the chances the production had of going to Broadway, but I sincerely hope it does. I think we're long overdue for a revival of Next to Normal. The original production left Broadway almost nine years ago now, and famously (and somewhat controversially, but I feel deservedly) won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. It featured an incredible cast, and told a story of mental illness and neurodivergency that felt years ahead of its time. For once, mental illness was not stigmatized, but portrayed as what it really was, and how it affected everyone around them. It offered critiques of traditional family dynamics, patriarchy, and the mental healthcare system. Being a mentally ill neurodivergent person myself, this was the first show I saw that I really felt took the time to research and portray accurately what it is really like to live with a mental illness.

It's been a year since the Kennedy Center's production of Next to Normal, and it's been nearly a year since we've been stuck in quarantine. I can't speak for everyone, but I know it has exacerbated my anxiety and depression, and I've heard similar experiences from many of my friends and classmates. I think that whenever Broadway reopens, Next to Normal should come with it. However much longer quarantine is, I doubt everyone struggling with mental health right now is going to be in much better shape than we are now.

Next to Normal will be needed more than ever when we open. The show provides a much-needed catharsis and a topical story, especially now. I know that I might not have survived quarantine without being able to listen to it over and over again. The show was already way ahead of its time back when it opened on Broadway in 2009, and it will be more important now, especially if given a diverse cast such as in the Kennedy Center's production. The story is so universal and so beautiful and tragic and cathartic, and the music is incredible.

I know that when Broadway reopens the main priority will be to make money, and Next to Normal may not be a big, commercial show, but it is a necessary one. It is a wonderful piece of art that I think will help many people through hard times as it has me. I really hope that it gets a revival upon reopening, and hopefully with the Kennedy Center's cast. There have been musicals released around the same time that have already received innovative revivals, in particular the Deaf West Spring Awakening that hit Broadway in 2016. It is my hope that when Broadway reopens, Next to Normal will return with it. Now more than ever, this show is needed.


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