PRIME CUTS: “Feeling Electric” from Next to Normal
In our continuing series, we’re taking a look at songs cut from Broadway musicals to see what happens in the making of a show. Next up–Next to Normal.
Did you know that the Pulitzer Prize-winning musical about a family dealing with a mother’s bipolar disorder started as a 10 minute piece called Feeling Electric? I can actually vouch for the wiki info because I was there ,a decade before the show hit Broadway, in the BMI music theater workshop as a fellow student with Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey when they presented their very arresting piece to “graduate” from the initial two-year program. Unlike the finished product, this original incarnation focused more on electro-shock therapy than the family’s dilemma, but its visceral, rock sound was already in place.
The show’s success (after a roller coaster of regional and Off-Broadway presentations) is a testament to the belief of the writers and producers as well as a stark example of the years it takes to make a musical work. Most shows you see, no matter how simple or effervescent they may appear, have similar stories of long, hard development behind them.
So let’s explore the show that was by listening to the original title song, “Feeling Electric”. An almost parodic, swaggering rocker song sung by the doctor performing the shock therapy, it was ultimately cut as the show shifted focus to the family dynamic and as it refined its sensibility to be less comedic and surreal. Take a listen to this version from a 2002 workshop sung by (I believe) Greg Naugton…