‘Normal’ wins Pulitzer for drama

Tuner is one of few musicals to win the prize

The Pulitzer win for “Next to Normal” — only the eighth tuner to nab the drama prize since the inception of the award in 1918 — looks poised to give the show’s national profile a boost as a road production gears up for a 36-week tour in November.

The kudo could additionally push forward the conversations producers said they have had about a potential London staging. Of course, the award, which comes with a $10,000 check to be shared between co-creators Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey, also could attract new auds to the Broadway incarnation.

“The Pulitzer does sell some tickets, and it also helps tremendously with press coverage across the country,” said producer David Stone. “Normal” joins a small pool of tuners that have scored the Pulitzer. Most of them, like “Normal,” incorporate notably serious themes such as fellow winners “Rent” (drug addiction and HIV), “Sunday in the Park With George” (the process of artistic creation) and “South Pacific” (racism and war).

The $4 million Main Stem production, which picked up three Tonys last spring, is already in the black, according to producers.

In selecting the ambitious rock musical about a family struggling to cope with a mother’s bi-polar disorder, the Pulitzer board sidestepped the three plays recommended to them by a panel of legiters that made up the drama jury. Those plays, announced as finalists, are “The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity” by Kristoffer Diaz, Rajiv Joseph’s “Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo” and Sarah Ruhl’s “In the Next Room or the Vibrator Play.”

Board has been known in the past to favor productions that have played Gotham, giving judges a chance to see the shows in question. While Ruhl’s play had a Broadway run earlier this season, neither “Chad Deity” nor “Bengal Tiger” has been staged in New York (although “Deity” will soon be produced at Off Broadway’s Second Stage and “Bengal Tiger” also is said to be gearing up for a Gotham stint).

Board always has the right to make a selection from outside a jury’s shortlist, which occurred most recently with the win for “Rabbit Hole” in 2007. This year the drama jury was made up of critics Charles McNulty, David Rooney and Hedy Weiss; John M. Clum, a professor of theater studies and English at Duke U., and playwright Nilo Cruz.

With music by Kitt and book and lyrics by Yorkey, “Normal” traveled an unusual path to the Rialto. An earlier version played at Off Broadway’s Second Stage in 2008 before further creative tinkering resulted in a run at D.C.’s Arena Stage later that year. The Broadway version opened in April 2009.

Pulitzer win for Kitt (currently serving as orchestrator for “American Idiot”) and Yorkey also will boost interest in their next collaboration. Duo said they are at the beginning stages of work on another tuner that, like “Normal,” is an original story rather than an adaptation of a pre-existing work.

Soon after the award was announced, the still-astonished pair said they couldn’t yet grasp how the win might propel their careers.

“What it all means is hard to know,” Kitt said.

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