Everybody’s favorite really-dysfunctional-family rock musical, Next to Normal, was named today as the winner of the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for drama. It’s the latest surprise for this most unusual show, which centers on a bipolar mom (Tony winner Alice Ripley) and the ripple effects that her mental illness have on her tight-knit suburban family. Few observers expected such a seeming downer of a show to survive on Broadway, let alone pack in audiences for more than a year. (It lost the Tony for Best Musical to Billy Elliot.) And even the Pulitzer was a shock, since the Pulitzer board made the rare but not unprecedented move of rejecting the nominating committee’s three choices – Kristoffer Diaz’ The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity, Rajiv Joseph’s Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo, and Sarah Ruhl’s In the Next Room (or the vibrator play) – and selecting Next to Normal instead.
We’ve had an appropriately crazy love for the show since it first debuted Off Broadway in 2008. And if you want to understand why, just check out this clip featuring Ripley, her on-stage daughter Jennifer Damiano, and on-stage son Aaron Tveit (you might recognize him as Trip from Gossip Girl). It proves how fictional families, suffering the most extreme of circumstances, can reflect everyday emotions and feelings – just more intensely. And what young woman growing up doesn’t feel like an invisible girl?