We’re longtime season ticket holders for the “Broadway Across Arizona” series at ASU Gammage, but haven’t any way of knowing whether “Next to Normal” will be part of their 2011-2012 slate.
When a small group of students from Lizabeth’s school went to NYC last year, everyone else saw “The Phantom of the Opera” on Broadway. Lizabeth chose to see “Next to Normal” instead, and took another student along for the show — only to learn that an understudy was replacing Alice Ripley (winner of a 2009 Tony Award for best performance by a leading actress in a musical) for that performance.
We waited a long time outside the Balboa Theatre stage door after Saturday night’s “Next to Normal” performance — hoping to meet Ripley and tell her just how powerful we found her performance.
Though she didn’t come out after the show (we suspect she was feeling a bit under the weather), we did get to chat with several other cast members — all very gracious about talking with folks, signing programs and posing for pictures.
Considering all the lights and strobe effects in the show, I half expected cast members to wince at the thought of enduring a flurry of flashes. But they seemed happy to linger, with smiles and personalities as bright as those amazing lights on the three-tier set.
We shared that we’d come from Arizona — and folks asked “Which part of Arizona?” My answer — “the liberal part” — drew a hearty laugh from a cast member who shared that he’d grown up in Utah. We felt among friends.
Also waiting at the stage door that night were two Arizona students — including an ASU journalism major. I gave her my card and invited her to send me a review of “Next to Normal” — which she sent nearly perfectly polished and before “deadline.”
We were among the final folks to abandon the quest to meet Ms. Ripley. When the theater security guards lock up and a police car starts lingering nearby, you get the feeling your level of interest might be misconstrued.
But before we moved on for a late night Ghirardelli run, we chatted with a delightful stage mom. I’m afraid to attempt the spelling of her name — which is quite beautiful and exotic. But I can handle the name of her 8-year-old son, Pierre.
Apparently Pierre was terribly shy until his parents enrolled him in a theater class, which introduced him to a world where different can be good. Now he’s becoming a regular on the San Diego Junior Theatre stage.
Remembering as we spoke that Theater Works’ Youth Works in Peoria is readying to open “James and the Giant Peach,” I invited Pierre’s mom to have him give me a call. Seems he’s an avid reader of Roald Dahl — the author of the book on which this play is based. I also encouraged her to make an Arizona road trip to explore our family-friendly theater offerings by Childsplay and others.
We’ve never spent a night at the theater without being introduced to compelling ideas and creative people — whether here in the Valley, on Broadway, or in another state. I can’t wait to see what Arizona companies and venues are offering during the 2011-2012 season.
Something tells me that a pair of young men we met in San Diego will be heading to Tempe this week to see “Spring Awakening” at ASU Gammage. It sounds like they may follow this musical the way young adults of earlier generations sought out the Grateful Dead or Bruce Springsteen.
But what of “Next to Normal?” I’ll share thoughts on the show in a future post — and am delighted today to share a review by Gabrielle Abrams, whose writing I expect to be reading in all sorts of places for many years to come.
Note: Visit the “On Stage” section of the daily online calendar at www.raisingarizonakids.com to learn about family-friendly theater options here in the Valley.
Coming up: Film competition for high school students, Valley theater company holds playwriting competition, More history meets theater
Photos by Lynn Trimble (with special thanks to Lizabeth for enduring her mother’s fascination with photographing signs and other oddities)