Hillary's thoughts on the closing of "Next to Normal"

So I know it's been more then a month since Next to Normal closed on Broadway (I'll pause for a moment to allow you to shed a tear at that thought. All better? Okay.) and while I would love to say that the reason it took me so long to get this post up is because I needed that time to properly digest and process the closing of one of the greatest shows to ever be on Broadway, the truth is that life got super insane. And you know, sometimes life is insane, but crazy I know I can do (ha.ha. see what I did there?), so the insanity was a bit much. Luckily, life is currently less hectic, and so I present to you my thoughts on the closing of this incredible show.

Attending the closing of Next to Normal was my first time experiencing the energy of a final performance, and I was blown away by the awesome energy that was surrounding the Booth. Not that I was expecting anything less, but the amount of love being sent to the cast, crew, creative team, and basically everyone who ever had anything to do with this fantastic show was just off the charts. From the moment the pre-show announcement started, the energy in the theater was palpable. And then the music started, and the lights blacked out right at the awesome guitar riff during the intro and... the audience exploded with applause. It gave me serious chills. Everyone got HUGE entrance applause, so much that poor Kyle Dean Massey had to hold for like two minutes while awkwardly hanging off a pole. Whatever, he made it look damn good. The entire cast was, as per usual, completely on top of their game. Again, not like I was expecting anything less from the most stellar replacement cast ever, but it was a bonus to have them all in spectacular vocal and acting shape for the final performance. This show was kickass when it opened, and it stayed kickass until it closed thanks to its fantastic cast. As if it hasn't been made clear enough, Michelle and I love this cast so hardcore, and their performances at closing just reaffirmed every compliment we ever blogged.

As for the show itself, it is hard to put in to words exactly how incredible it was. The cast was emotional from the beginning, especially Meghann Fahy, who made her entrance looking like she had been sobbing backstage for the past twenty minutes (and still looking super pretty. Some things just aren't fair). They poured all of that emotion into the show, making an already emotional show even more painfully wonderful. Before the lights went down and the show started, I made a pact with myself that I would try my best not to cry like a baby during this show. The beginning of act I was all right... there was humor and Dr. Rockstar and a lot of epic belting (Mr. Massey busting out his incredible high note at the end of "I'm Alive" was made even more amazing by the fact that you could even hear it over the cheers and claps of the crowd). But then we got to "I Dreamed a Dance," and from there to intermission I was a tearful mess. Luckily, the cast was a tearful mess too, so I didn't feel out of place. The end of Act I is super sad and tear-inducing to begin with, but knowing that it was the last time I'd be seeing it performed on a Broadway stage just made it so much more intense.

And then it was intermission. Also known as "the fifteen minute period in which Michelle and Hillary met Tom Kitt and then freaked the fuck out." Seriously, y'all, meeting one half of the creative genius behind this show (and High Fidelity, and American Idiot, and Bring It On) has been on my bucket list forever, and finally getting to meet the man and thank him for such a beautiful show was an amazing moment.

Act II followed much in the way Act I did. I was fine for the beginning part (and by fine I mean not a sobbing mess). As further proof that you discover new, wondrous things about Next to Normal every time you see it, there was a beautiful moment between Diana and Natalie during "Better than Before" that I had never seen before. When Dan was showing Diana the mementos of their past and their family, Diana did not take her eyes off Natalie, and Natalie stared right back until one of them looked away. It was a beautifully subtle moment that really underscored the fractured relationship between Diana and Natalie, and it was great to be able to see it without tears blurring my vision. But then from "How Could I Ever Forget?" to the end of the show there were constant tears that reached a peak during "Maybe" because Meghann Fahy completely lost her tenuous control on her emotions and just openly shook with semi-repressed tears. Michelle covered the "but something next to normal might be okay" line beautifully, and for some reason I forgot that that line happened and that it would make me a sobbing mess, but you know what? I think Ms. Fahy did too. It was almost as if she got to the line, realized "oh crap!" and then had to force the words out past the massive lump in her throat. She absolutely killed me.

You know who else made my heart hurt in the best way possible? Adam Chanler-Berat. Given his heart-wrenching rendition of "Perfect for You (reprise)" when Jennifer Damiano left the show, I was expecting Mr. Chanler-Berat to struggle to get through the song at closing as well. He did, and it was heart-breakingly beautiful. Ms. Fahy was openly crying, and hearing Mr. Chanler-Berat's voice crack with emotion just drove home for me that this was it. The last time I would see this incredible show on Broadway. Even though I (and my bank account) had known that closing night was coming for months in advance, it still didn't really hit me until I was in the theater, in my seat, watching this show and thinking to myself, "oh my god this is it." And then I cried. A lot. But even then, "Light" refused to let me wallow in grief and sadness. It was as if the show itself was telling me and the rest of the audience that it would be okay, that when our long night was done (and we were done crying our eyes out), there would be light. As David Stone said in his wonderful closing speech, the show is still on tour, and the beauty of Next to Normal will continue to live on. Mr. Stone also gave a wonderful shout-out to Mr. Chanler-Berat, who has been with the show since it's run at Second Stage. It was a very touching moment, with the crowd once again rising to its feet to give a visibly moved Mr. Chanler-Berat a standing ovation.

And then after the show, Michelle and I met Brian Yorkey. "Hi, I'm Brian" has subsequently become our go-to phrase for every incredible thing that happens in our lives.

In closing of this outrageously long post, I just want to take a moment to say that this show has been such a part of my life for the past two years. The friends I have made because of this show (it was the first one Michelle and I ever saw together), the way this show touched my heart and soul with its unfailing emotional and powerful message, and the beauty it has given my life will never be forgotten. Thank you, Next to Normal, for being such an incredible piece of theater that has changed my life in small yet so significant ways.


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