The citation calls it "a powerful rock musical that grapples with mental illness in a suburban family and expands the scope of subject matter for musicals."
I did not see this one coming but I think it's a well-deserved award.
I know Next to Normal has provoked controversy for its depiction of psychiatry and of a woman in the throes of mental illness. And I completely respect people who take an opposite view. But please, hear me out.
While I don't have experience with anyone in my family, I know people who suffer from mental illness. I know people who have committed suicide, including someone who killed himself after he decided to stop taking his medication.
You can criticize the choices Diana, the main character, makes as a woman with depression and bipolar disorder but you can't deny that sometimes, people in her situation do make those choices. Depicting them is not the same as endorsing them.
What gives this work its power and emotion, what makes it so gut-wrenching is that we see the devastating impact Diana's illness has not only on her life but on the lives of her husband and daughter. I felt nothing but compassion and greater understanding of their plight.
Kitt and Yorkey, who won the Tony Award for Best Score, convey so well what each character is going through - how they feel, their fears and frustrations - to a vibrant rock 'n' roll beat.
As I said in my review, I did not take the musical as an attack on psychiatry or on antidepressants.
Rather, I think it's an exploration of the difficulty in treating mental illness despite the best efforts of physicians, despite the tools of modern medicine, despite people in its throes wanting to get better, despite the love and care and desperate hopes of families.
Because of the subject matter, Next to Normal is tough to sit through at times but it's one of the most original, compelling works I've seen on Broadway or anywhere else.
Next to Normal is playing on Broadway at the Booth Theatre. A national tour will start in the fall.