by Brian Yorkey, book and lyrics for Next to Normal
Thanks to Arena for inviting me to guest-blog! Well, let's tell the truth. I invited myself. I have a huge crush on Arena Stage—is it possible to be in love with an institution? I think it is—and with everyone who works there, and the thought of being a part of the Arena Stage blog was too exciting to pass up. (I check it all the time, myself. My favorites are when Janine takes us inside rehearsal, or when David Dower tweets. I also just like saying "David Dower tweets.")
I first fell in love back in the fall and winter of last year, when we cast, rehearsed, and opened Next to Normal in Crystal City. Tom Kitt and I still remember the time as among our most favorite in the long journey of the show. (It's been 10 years, and there have been some times, believe me.) I walked by a McCormicks and Schmick's in Midtown Manhattan the day before yesterday and felt a pang of longing for "the Crystal City," as we all called it, because it sounded like a magical place. And was, it turns out.
Because now here the show is on Broadway with 11 Tony nominations, none of which would have happened without the work we did down in D.C. It's all been a bit of a blur, and not just because I got new glasses while in Crystal City (shout-out to Northern Virginia Optometrists, right next to the theatre, y'all). We opened early December at Arena, and closed mid-January, and three weeks later we were in the recording studio making the CD, and three weeks after that we were in rehearsal, and three weeks after that we were in previews on Broadway. Huh? What?
Not that I would have it any other way. There's been very little time to panic.
We didn't spend a great deal of time in the rehearsal studio this time, because the show hadn't changed drastically since Arena. Nips and tucks here and there, assorted new lyrics, a few pieces of staging Michael changed (goodbye, Alice on a staircase, hello Alice on a gurney!). But then it was right into tech, and very soon, previews.
Our first preview was a little bit crazy. All our best fans were there, it turned out, many who had seen it at Arena, others who could only read about it there, and had been waiting since Second Stage to see it again. When the big blackout hit at the top of the show, screams and whoops filled the house. Tom and I looked at each other: What the hell? At intermission Michael Greif leaned over to us: "Just so you know, it's not always like this. This is special."
The last image from that first preview, which I'll never forget. We were in the house, doing the usual post-preview notes session. (By "we" I mean Michael, the designers, crew, stage managers, Charlie, Tom, and I.) From outside the theater we hear a huge crowd cheering. Angela Lansbury emerging from Blithe Spirit, which is showing in the adjacent Shubert, we think. Nope, someone reports from the stage door. It's our crowd, cheering each actor as they emerge.
Yeah. This is special.
(Dear me, I've already gone on longer than a blog entry should. I was supposed to talk about opening night, Tony noms, and these "in-between" days after opening...maybe I'll be invited back? I know, shameless hint-dropping. Give me a break. I'm in love.)