Alice Ripley won the 2009 Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical for her portrayal as Diana Goodman in Next to Normal, and is currently reprising her role in the show's North American tour. In addition, Ripley has just released a new CD of rock covers, Daily Practice Volume 1, featuring such pop classics Bruce Springsteen's "Thunder Road," U2's "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For," and REM's "Everybody Hurts"; she will be performing a concert based on the CD at Chicago's Stage 773 on May 2. TheaterMania spoke with Ripley about her album and the tour.

THEATERMANIA: How would you define this album?
ALICE RIPLEY: Daily Practice is the first in a series of volumes, whose purpose may be to serve as a go-to corner resource, offering reliable examples of honest-to-goodness songwriting at its finest.

TM: You have written over 100 songs. Why did you decide to include cover songs on this album instead of your originals?
AR: These songs were specifically chosen because I am interested in a personal Roots Revival, and these are among the singer/songwriters I listened to as a young girl. These are the writers that sparked my creative fire and have kept alive a desire to write my own songs, years later.

TM: What do these rock songs mean to you?
AR: A song like U2's "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" is an anthem on which you might build a revolution. Nanci Griffith's "Flyer" is a sleeper of a perfect song, a quilt to crawl under on cold nights.

TM: When did you start playing the guitar?
AR: I started taking guitar lessons when I was 14.

TM: The album is titled Daily Practice, Volume 1, do you have any ideas of what you would like to include on future volumes? When will they be released?
AR: I say let's make another record immediately! Last night, my practice consisted of more Springsteen and Pink Floyd's "Wish You Were Here."

Alice Ripley in Next to Normal
(© Craig Schwartz)
Alice Ripley in Next to Normal
(© Craig Schwartz)
TM: Would you say Next to Normal was life changing for you?
AR: Yes, every day I feel more alive as our audience expands to new cities. The people I have met while performing Next to Normal have changed my daily life in a positive way.

TM: How is the tour going?
AR: The road can be tough, but part of an actor's job is to go to where the audience comes to meet. Bringing Diana to cities across North America is in essence giving the Broadway version of Next to Normal to young audiences in cities like Cleveland. I grew up there on Lake Erie and I had few, if any, opportunities to see a Tony winner perform in the Tony-winning role that she played on Broadway.

TM: Which cities are you looking forward to visiting?
AR: San Francisco has been divine! To me, it is the city of light. I can't wait to be soaked by Seattle!

TM: How does the tour audience differ from the Broadway fans?
AR: The post-Broadway crowd is literally the same audience. Many enthusiastic "front row professionals" from the Booth Theatre have hopped planes to meet Next to Normal in cities on our tour, with more to come.

TM: You have been involved in this production's journey for over two years, from Off-Broadway at Second Stage Theater to the Arena Stage in Washington to Broadway and now the tour. What are the challenges of performing in a show that is very emotional for this long?
AR: To remember, "it's a play!"

TM: Going into Next to Normal, did you have any idea it would be this successful?
AR: Mostly what I see each day is what is in front of me. I always hope to see a successful bigger picture, especially when it comes to dreaming about my creative life.