Next to Normal is an original musical that began largely as a critique of the medical establishment and the medical treatment for mental illnesses like those from which Diana suffers but, as the show continued to develop, the writers chose to focus on the family and their struggles instead.
Next to Normal began in 1998 as a ten-minute workshop sketch about a woman undergoing electroshock therapy and its impact on her family, titled Feeling Electric. Book and lyrics writer, Brian Yorkey, brought the idea to composer, Tom Kitt, while both were at the BMI Lehman Engel Musical Theatre Workshop, and the pair began to write together. This eventually led to the show receiving several NYC readings before debuting Off-Broadway at the Second Stage Theatre from January 16, through March 16, 2008.
Following its Off-Broadway debut, Next to Normal continued development in a regional premiere production at the Arena Stage in Crystal City, Virginia, from November 21, 2008, through January 18, 2009. With critical and audience reception highly favorable, the musical then leapt to Broadway, starting previews at the Booth Theatre on March 27, 2009, before officially opening on April 15, 2009. The Broadway production later closed on January 16, 2011, after 21 previews and 733 regular performances. The show was directed, as it had been Off-Broadway and at the Arena Stage, by Michael Greif with Sergio Trujillo doing the musical staging. The opening-night cast included Alice Ripley, J. Robert Spencer, Louis Hobson, Aaron Tveit, Jennifer Damiano and Adam Chanler-Berat.
After its successful Broadway run, 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 Tony Award-winning role as Diana.
The show has also gone on to a very successful regional and international life, playing in such cities as: Milwaukee, San Francisco, Atlanta, Chicago, Tucson, Orlando and Charleston, to name a few, as well as such foreign markets as: Japan, Sweden, South Korea, Australia, Brazil, Israel and Argentina.
- About six weeks into the Broadway Production, Next to Normal made history by publishing an adapted version of the show over Twitter. Over 35 days, the serialized version of the show was published in short messages. The Twitter performance ended the morning of June 7, 2009, the day of the 2009 Tony Awards.
- On May 12, 2009, the Next to Normal Original Broadway Cast Recording was released by Sh-K-Boom Records.
- When Next to Normal won the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, it became just 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.
- The musical set a box office record at the Booth Theatre for the week ending January 3, 2010, by grossing $550,409, only to beat that record a year later in its final week of performances, grossing $552,653 for the week ending January 16, 2011.
- Besides the awards it won, Next to Normal was nominated for two Drama Desk Awards and an additional eight Tony Awards, including Best Musical and Best Book of a Musical .
- Next to Normal was originally slated to open in the Longacre Theatre on Broadway with a closed balcony to create a more intimate space, but when the smaller Booth Theatre became suddenly available, producers made the switch.
- Since 1918, only eight musicals have been awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Drama – of those eight, six are MTI Musicals: Of Thee I Sing (1932), Fiorello! (1960), How to Succeed... (1962), Sunday in the Park with George (1985), Rent (1996) and Next to Normal (2010).