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Go Ask Alice

Tony Award nominee Alice Ripley reflects on the most difficult and rewarding role of her career: Next to Normal's Diana Goodman logo
Alice Ripley
(© Joseph Marzullo/WENN)
Alice Ripley has proven herself one of Broadway's most versatile actresses, with roles ranging from Fantine in Les Miserables, Mrs. Walker in The Who's Tommy, Betty Schaeffer in Sunset Boulevard, Molly Ivors in James Joyce's The Dead, Janet Weiss in The Rocky Horror Show, and, most memorably, Violet Hilton in Side Show, for which she received a Tony Award nomination as Best Actress in a Musical. This year, she's taken her artistry to another level with her portrayal of the severely bi-polar mother Diana Goodman in Next to Normal, for which she has received her second Tony Award nomination for Best Actress in a Musical.

THEATERMANIA: How did this Tony Award nomination make you feel? Was it a different feeling than before?
ALICE RIPLEY: It's a dream come true. You always want to think you're doing excellent work, but being nominated for an award like the Tony shows you are doing it. And, yes, this nomination feels completely different than Side Show, because now I feel like I am on the inside of the experience and part of a community of friends and colleagues, which I didn't in 1998. I'm really just over the moon!

TM: You've been part of this show for three years, including the previous runs at Second Stage and Arena Stage. Was it important to you to have the show go to Broadway?
AR: When I first started with the project, I never thought as far as Broadway. Even when we were at Arena, on some level, I just focused on what I was doing with the show and did not think ahead. But I also think everybody wants their show to move to Broadway, whatever show they're doing. Last year, we were told after the Second Stage run that we weren't moving to Broadway right away. So I looked at Tom Kitt -- who's my friend and who wrote the music -- and he seemed happy with the decision. So I was happy. I just decided that we'd forge ahead and see what would come next -- which turned out to be a show that got 11 Tony nominations.

TM: In the long run, were there other benefits in waiting a year to come to Broadway?
AR: The whole time I was at Second Stage, it was a really difficult part to do. This year, it's a lot easier, because I've had that whole year to train with my voice teacher. It's also taken this last year for me to truly get inside of Diana and make her part of me so I don't have to think so much about what I have to do onstage, I can just be. Now, it's like a fun ride for me.

Aaron Tveit, Alice Ripley, and J. Robert Spencer
in Next to Normal
(© Joan Marcus)
TM: Is this the most challenging role you've ever done?
AR: Yeah. I think that it's maybe the most interesting female character in musical theater -- and not because of my portrayal necessarily, but because of the story that she's in. It's a really complicated story and yet it's also a universal and very beautiful story. I can't imagine getting another chance to do a role like Diana, even as I hope there will be more parts like this for women actors.

TM: Are some performances of the week harder for you than others?
AR: I will say matinees are easier, because I wake up in the morning with all this energy, and the second show of those two-show days are very difficult for me, because I feel like I've already released all the tension I have. And I have to say the audience's enthusiasm is also a key to my performances. The more excited they are, the better I am.

TM: How much input did you have with the writers in creating Diana?
AR: I never had to have any, because the powers that be -- that's what I call our producer David Stone, our writers Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey, and our director, Michael Greif -- they just made the decisions all along that I would have made. That's never happened before; ask anybody who knows me. I'm hard to please when it comes to those creative choices, but they all had their heads in the same place as they were working through the changes that they wanted to make. Some of the changes in the show were big, but most of them were about the tone, and I think it all added up to something truly great. This show has really changed my life.


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