It wasn't an easy sell at first, an offbeat stage musical about a middle-aged housewife struggling with the painful complexities of grief, mental illness, marriage and family life.
But Village Theatre in Issaquah, Wash., took a chance on the show, "Next to Normal," written by its then-associate artistic director, Brian Yorkey.
"Next to Normal" has been awarded a Pulitzer Prize for drama, one of the highest accolades in American theater. The show comes to Charlotte's Knight Theater on July 12-17, 2011, as part of next season's Performing Arts Center lineup.
The Village gave "Normal" its first workshop production in 2005. When it went on to become a hit on Broadway and win Tony Awards, the theater and Yorkey thought it couldn't get any better.
"Never in a million years would we have imagined it," Yorkey says. "When you work in theater, you dream about the Tony, but the Pulitzer feels like something beyond mere mortals."
When Yorkey got the phone call that the play had won the prize, he double-checked the Pulitzer Web site: "I had to log on and see for myself."
He said he's especially pleased by the judges' characterization of the play as "a powerful rock musical that grapples with mental illness in a suburban family and expands the scope of subject matter for musicals."
"That was really gratifying," Yorkey says, "because it was an unlikely show. Everyone involved with it worked on it because they believed in it, not because it was going to be a big hit."
The award adds luster to the reputation of the Village, a popular professional playhouse that has a twofold mission: to present well-known Broadway musical, and to nurture and introduce new shows. "Normal" is the eighth musical to win a Pulitzer.
Yorkey created "Next to Normal" with composer and co-lyricist Tom Kitt, and shared a Tony Award with Kitt for its score.
Despite the subject matter, small cast and lack of glitzy production values, "Normal" became one of the hits of the 2008-2009 season and won three Tonys. It is still playing at Broadway's Booth Theatre.