Alice Ripley in ‘Next to Normal’: knowing when to leave

The money — and the media — behind Broadway serve up the illusion that hit shows are frozen on opening night.

Whatever superlatives were showered on “Billy Elliott” or “In the Heights” when they opened years ago are still screaming at us from posters in the lobby and on little signs dangling on the marquees.

With Broadway being such a huge business — and tourist magnet — it has always puzzled me that shows aren’t revisited on a regular basis by critics (or arts consumer reporters) to see if they are still delivering the goods.

Lip service is given to the notion of theater being an art form in which every performance is — and should be — unique, but few talk about the problems that arise when a play or musical runs for months or years. Actors in a hit certainly remain “artists” but they are also cogs in a commercial machine.

The truth is that a long-running show almost always has its ups and downs in terms of what an audience experiences.

Some performers have the physical equipment and the dedication to maintain a role for months and months (I saw William Daniels in “1776” almost two years into his run and he was still a fantastic John Adams).

Others get bored and go on auto-pilot.

Some stars do weird things to keep themselves interested (i.e. theater history accounts of Barbra Streisand in her second year of “Funny Girl,” and Zero Mostel in his second month of “Fiddler on the Roof”).

Then, there is the case of unusually strenuous roles that can wreck performers, perhaps because they were not designed to be played eight times a week for an extended period of time.

Which brings me to Alice Ripley and her Tony Award-winning performance in the psychodrama musical “Next to Normal,” which has been running since the spring of 2009.

I didn’t catch up with the show and Ripley until yesterday’s matinee and my first thought after the show was that it is a very good thing the actress is leaving the production on July 18.

I’ve been a fan of Ripley’s since I saw her breakthrough performance as one of the conjoined twins in “Side Show” in 1998, but it was painful to listen to the sound of her singing voice in “Next to Normal” Sunday.

Yes, some of the rock-tinged score is meant to sound harsh — the show is about a suburban wife and mother who has been breaking down mentally for 16 years — but Ripley was the only performer on stage whose voice was such a strangled rasp that half of the words she sang couldn’t be understood.

The sound engineers appeared to be playing tricks with her track in order to pump up the sound, but it only emphasized the vocal problems and in some scenes made Ripley’s voice seem to be disembodied (because it was so loud and clearly not coming from the direction of the woman on stage).

Maybe the actress had laryngitis. Maybe she had a bad cold. But in either case, she was not the doing the audience or herself any favors by performing.

Joe Meyers

170 Responses

  1. donna says:

    Poor Alice’s voice was often flat in pitch, once not even making the end ‘held’ note. Too much has been said already. I just, for the first time, listened to the entire show online…i loved her portrayal of Diana, I don’t think that could ever be done any better. I purposely went on google to read reviews of the show only to find this long line of comments about her voice. I do have to say that I’m relieved that it was noticed as too often I hear really bad singing in Musical Theater because someone hiring doesn’t know the difference. I fell like belting too long hurts the voice no matter what. I send her healing energy for her cords. I’m a voice teacher and opera singer and hope she’s recovered well by now.

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  3. Meg says:

    I have been following this thread for months, as I find Ms. Ripley to be such an inspiration. Both as an actress and a singer. It is difficult not to feel upset reading the exceedingly nasty things people have said and I still stand by my previous comments that she is a professional and knew NOT to leave. Its true that she did take shows off later in the tour when she needed to-and this is because she (not the reader of this blog) knows what she needs to do to take care of herself and does it.

    The N2N score is a really difficult one to sing continually and I’m sure it was exhausting traveling and performing for the almost 9 months of the tour. And I feel that Ms. Ripley embodied Diana and her iconic performance will forever be tied with the role and the show. I am so thankful that she did the tour and let the rest of the country see such an honest, real and amazing performance.

  4. Zoe Wells says:

    I saw Alice in New York and was BLOWN AWAY. As for her voice condition in this moment, I cant speak to.

    But wanted to voice my opinion of her performance in NYC and the show in general:

    I absolutely love her voice and was so thankful that her rock-edge perfect-imperfect voice was highlighted on Broadway. Its not the typical voice one hears and I found that SOOOO refreshing. It fit her character so wonderfully, she and the show made me FEEL so much and so deeply. Ive been in theater for 30 years and to me, it is the best, most daring, inventive, touching, beautiful rock opera musical ever created. Bold, but true!

    I listen to the Broadway album very often and am brought back to the stellar performances I was so fortunate to see. Brilliantly created art brings life into its fullest potential, and this show and all of its contributors have created a masterpiece to be very proud of.

    To Alice and the company – Youre beautiful and THANK YOU for opening up your souls to us in the audience. Ill never forget all of your performances, and most of all — this painful, beautiful and immaculately told story.

  5. Patrick says:

    I continue to shake my head at all the people who get so defensive about Alice Ripley as if she was their own mother. Giving warranted criticism about her voice doesn’t mean we think she’s the devil incarnate.

    Her voice was shot, stop trying to convince those of us with working ears that it wasn’t. I’ve seen hundreds of shows over the years and I can tell the difference between a good voice and one that is totally shot. I loved Alice prior to this and sad it’s turned out this way.

    Her acting in the show was fantastic, but her voice was not. Glad the tour is over and she can rest. Whether she has forever damaged her vocal cords remains to be seen. If she has, at least her fans can rest assured knowing she gave everything playing this role that so many think is the greatest performance ever given by any performer in the history of the world.

  6. nbf says:

    Well, the tour is over now, and it ended — thankfully — with Alice Ripley in the lead. As someone who has seen Diana played by five different women (understudies included), I can say that there was no one better suited to bring this soul to life than Alice, and she did this beautiful piece of art a service by dedicating herself to this role for as long as she did, even in the face of unwarranted criticism like that which appears on this thread. Alice carried every emotion Diana felt in every note she sang. She delivered the words of that score in such a way that they penetrated the hearts of those in the audience. She gave a masterful performance from start to finish and as time went on she only gave Diana more of herself. Diana’s pain and fear came alive through Alice’s eyes, mannerisms, and the powerful instrument of her voice which carried the deep sadness and longing of the woman she was portraying. I am sad for those who were too focused on listening for crystal clear notes to bother realizing that Alice was giving every bit of herself to brilliantly portray a woman coping with loss and fear — a woman consumed with grief and trying to hold onto the very thing that was killing her. I am sad for anyone who could walk away from next to normal with the desire to criticize rather than the desire to reflect upon that brilliant piece of art and the brilliant and beautiful woman who gave so much in order to give her character life.

    I, along with many, many others, will be eternally grateful that Alice Ripley did not back down and continued to dedicate herself Diana. She deserves every bit of positive recognition she received for her bravery, for her brilliance, and for approaching this character with sincere dedication and compassion. So, thank you next to normal, and thank you always, Alice.

  7. Michael Kras says:

    Well, I actually got to see Ripley in the role today, and saw absolutely NOTHING wrong with her voice. Sure, the vowel pronounciation thing was apparent, but it always has been for Next To Normal and it is most definitely a character choice. Just listen to her other recent recordings like Daily Practice… her voice isn’t dying, it’s deliberate. When she belts, she does it with such anguish that it creates strong pathos, not the desire to cringe.

    All in all, Ripley was all together brilliant, in terms of both her acting and her vocals. If people want to see a show where people do pretty singing, go see Les Miz or something. I for one found Alice’s vocals beautiful because they were in inperfect. They work brilliantly for Diana.

  8. Billy says:

    I read that review and find the logic behinid rather troubling. Are we really willing to throw the notion of vocal technique out the window when listening to a musical theatre actor? Are we to the point, having been conditioned by the drek of most rock and pop music singers, of not caring about the quality of the singing voice so long as the “emoitons” are “true”?

    And in the case of Ms. Ripley – an extraoardinarily talented signing actor who, at one point, was more than capable of delivering true emotions on gloriously, soaring signing – her clear vocal distress is a case study in what not to do when the voice has gone beyond its limits.

    From another Tonronto review: “Her performance as Diana has an appealingly imbalanced quality, her mania manifesting itself particularly in her eyes. But she has an odd, distracting voice – with vowel sounds take you on a trip around the world without leaving your theatre seat. Here vocal idiosyncrasies are one thing, but her voice is also clearly tired. It was forced and often flat, not at all like how it sounds on the cast album.” (J. KELLY NESTRUCK of THE GLOBE AND MAIL)

    I repeat that all of my comments on this blog are offered in support of this extremely gifted artist. But the state of her current performance, as it has been delivered for a number of months now, is a perfect study by a high profile singer in a high profile role, of the serious dangers of the modern musicla theatre whereIN composers often write with little knowledge of or concern for the actors who will perform their scores. It’s also a case study in the wise and careful decisions actors must make in terms of caring for the longevity of their instruments (and careers). And as many have pointed out here, it’s also a matter of the responsibility producers, directors and performers have to a paying public in today’s high-cost, commercial theatre.

  9. Michael Kras says:

    This was in a recent review of Next To Normal on tour… The Toronto opening performance.

    “She (Alice) also sings with amazing abandon, not really caring what sounds she makes as long as the emotions behind them are true.”

    Sounds fair to me

  10. Jenny says:

    I saw the show last night in Toronto, and I have to say I loved it. Yes, Ms, Ripley’s voice sounded hoarse. Yes, it sounded tired at times and pitch was an issue on more than one occasion. However, the performance was otherwise powerful and the show as a whole was very moving and thought provoking.
    I can’t say whether Ms. Ripley should leave the show. Would it even be touring if she weren’t involved? Perhaps not. It’s a business after all.
    This has brought up a wonderful discussion though about singers and what they and WE expect from the voice. Another very popular singer, Adele had to cancel the remainder of her tour because of poor vocal health. Bottom line: You cannot ask so much of a voice for so long a time. This type of Rock opera is exhausting on a voice. Few breaks, lots of belting in the upper register. Lots of movement. The voice really isn’t meant to work that way for long periods of time. Lots of singers in the past, LuPone, Peters, had to change the way they sing to preserve their voices for the duration of their career.

  11. Danny says:

    I did not get the chance to hear Ms. Ripley so I have no comment to pile on the bandwagon. However I have to give MAJOR props to her excellent understudy Pearl Sun who carried off the performance flawlessly and with great abandon to the role. If I had known nothing about the work or Ms. Ripley, I would have said Sun was the major talent here. The full cast was excellent as well and as one who has dealt with many of the issues the play presents I was able to focus on what people should go see N2N for: the story and characters. Perhaps Ripley’s presence on this tour, while lending some Broadway “street cred”, might be more of a distraction for people who only want to come and see if she steps in it. Best wishes to Ms. Ripley, Ms. Sun and the whole cast and crew of the excellent N2N tour and thank you for a job well done.

  12. Billy says:

    Sally, you truly miss the point. Many of the posts here which express dismay at what is occuring with Ms. Ripley’s voice are doing so out of a huge concern for her vocal health. Her instrument is (was) a marvelous instrument, capable of great range, style, nuance and quality. The exposure this role has afforded her bode very well for the future roles she might have been offered and/or that might have been written for her.

    The type of vocal distress/damage that many people are commenting upon is not just the type that will go away after a few days’ rest. Irreversible harm can be inflicted and many here who obviously know a little about about vocal health feel she has moved into such territory.

    You may respond that it’s her business and we should all butt out. On one level, you’re right. But to those of us who admire Alice Ripley’s gifts and long to see her in future productions, our concern is real and our intentions are not all meanspirited.

  13. Sally says:

    Joan, so glad that you’re an authority. Phew, I almost thought that the rest of us with differing opinions might just have a right to them. Thanks for reminding us that apparently, even if we do, they don’t matter.

    If she has damaged her voice by pouring her soul into this soul, then you are pretty awful and meanspirited for being so judgemental and rude about it.

    Who cares what the cynic in you thinks. Really, I for one do not. She is more successful than you will ever be so stay home, play armchair critic and have a nice life. I would guess that Ms. Ripley will do the same without caring about your silliness.

  14. Joan says:

    Alice Ripley’s voice is just plain bad at this point. The people who are arguing for her voice being appropriate for the bipolar character are just kidding themselves. Go listen to her on the CD and watch her recorded previous N2N performances (numerous of them) on Youtube, and come back tell me that her current horrific voice is “intentional” for the character. Please, and I have a bridge to sell to you.

    She has most likely developed polyps of the vocal cord after years of overusage. This is a fairly common problem for professional singers, especially opera singers. Her voice is in shambles right now and it’s not coming back anytime soon, perhaps forever. Why is she doing this…..I won’t tell you what the cynic in me thinks.

  15. ExGypsy says:

    Just saw the performance in Charlotte last night. Cannot understand how anyone, mostly Alice, canallow this to happen. Why, why, why would she continue to go on with her voice in this state???? Not only embarrassing and unfair to ticket holders- but dangerous! She sounds like she has grave problems with her chords and I hope she stops this madness soon. I still loved the show- the rest of the cast was great- and Alice Ripley is a very skilled actor. A raw, brave performance that cut me to the quick- even considering the distraction of having to try to ignore the horrible sounds coming out of her. She really is amazingly talented, and I would go see her again in a heartbeat. Just hope she gets a grip, puts her ego or whatever it is aside, and takes care of herself!

  16. Melissa says:

    I saw N2N on July 8th at the Kennedy Center, and ever since I’ve been wondering “What’s up with Alice Ripley’s voice?” I’ve never heard anything like it — in a Broadway show. It reminded me of a certain type of vocally-challenged American Idol contestant who ends up being shocked that he or she didn’t get through the first round. Yes, it was that bad! Because the other players sounded just fine, the sound of her voice was incredibly distracting. So distracting that I couldn’t tell if I liked the music or not. I’m curious about what the problem is. Anyone know?

  17. Stephanie says:

    Oh thank God it’s not just me- I was so thrown off for a while in the first act tonight @ Knight’s Theatre Charlotte. My friend and I just assumed she was using it to make her character seem more insane and off balance from the rest of the cast? But when it didn’t get better during her character’s more lucid moments I started having my doubts. By the end everytime she started singing I just was waiting for her to stop- she was unintelligible for the most part and just painful to listen to. The rest of the cast was amazing, and her acting and body language was amazing.
    I took a risk and got the CD figuring I could just skip over her parts and WOW what a difference! She sounds amazing on the CD- totally earned the Tony with that performance. I can only assume she’s done some damage to her voice and I pray she takes the needed rest to get better before she completely destroys it.

  18. Ryan says:

    I saw Alice Ripley perform today at the Kennedy Center(7/9, 1:30pm show). I’ve never seen her perform before; given her exceptionally poor attendance on this tour, I’d only seen her excellent understudy (Pearl Sun) in the role. Rumor has it that Alice likes matinees, so you can imagine my excitement when I didn’t see the “understudy is performing” placard in the lobby.

    To be perfectly honest, I was expecting far worse from Alice Ripley, though her performance was far from perfect, and her voice isn’t anything close to normal. As an actress, Ripley excels. You can tell that she pours her every raw emotion into the role, and her manic anger literally leaps off the stage.

    It is clear that Ripley’s voice has seriously deteriorated since from the spellbinding standard that she set early in her New York run. Ripley’s speaking voice is hoarse, and her singing voice sounds like laryngitis. While even in her prime there was a slight trace of an Irish accent in her singing, the bizarre accent has now dramatically intensified, and seems awkward because her character is certainly American. When she sings, many of her pronunciations are weird(this becomes “thees,” for becomes “fir”…), which renders some of the songs hard to follow when coupled with her average diction. And her hoarse vibrato is now so wide that you can drive an 18-wheeler through it.

    However, her performance was mostly on-key and not flat. While rough, she did hit all her notes, and through the whole show only one particular high note sounded especially painful. She gave a strong performance “I Miss the Mountains,” but overall her voice sounds seriously weak and tired. Ripley’s vocal state does not harmonize well with the other performers. I could barely hear her sing over the far more powerful voices in the supporting cast, which sadly served to contrast her diminished vocal power to the rest of the cast – a cast that has been singing eight shows a week for many months and hasn’t been sending in their understudy for more than half of the shows.

    Was I disappointed? Of course not. Alice Ripley is an amazing actress who brings her character to staggering life, and Next to Normal is one awesome show. However, Ripley’s voice sounds damaged and is simply not up to par – a par that she herself set.

  19. Gab says:

    I saw N2N today at the Kennedy Center (1:30pm matinee). I loved everything the plot had to offer as well as the score. My only issue with the show was Ripley’s voice. It took away from the experience as a whole. At first I thought she had a cold and lost her voice or something, but when I talked to one of the people I went with, he said that she’s sounded that bad for quite some time. There were times where I just felt like crying because I was THAT into it – the emotions were so raw that it’s hard to not be moved even if you’re sitting all the way in the top balcony as I was. However, her voice killed it for me. It can’t be a good thing when every time she opens her mouth to sing, you can hear and feel the rest of the audience members sighing and cringing at what has become of her voice. I thought her character was fabulous, but her voice didn’t match anyone else’s. Pitchy is an understatement and lack of diction and annunciation made it almost unbearable. And as a vocalist, I feel for her. Not only is her voice extremely (and possibly irreversibly) damaged, but I’m sure it’s just as painful for her as it was for the audience.

  20. MSF says:

    Just got home from N2N – her voice – it’s bad!!

  21. Meg says:

    Wow, I’ve followed this blog for awhile (as I find it appalling how everyone seems to love to judge Alice Ripley’s voice and just how meanspirited and selfish many of the comments on here are).

    If Alice needs to leave the show, I’ve no doubt she will do so. If the producers feel she needs to leave, no doubt they will facilitate that. However, I feel fairly confident in saying that no one here is MORE qualified than Ms. Ripley and the production team.

    So, go and be arm chair critics if you want and complain, but let the actual artists who pour their very lives into their creations decide if the show is good enough even if her voice isn’t spot on.

    And, for the record, I’ve seen the show numerous times and feel that her voice, whatever shape it is in on a given day, is great for Diana. Let us not forget, she is playing someone with severe bipolar. Her character is suffering and fighting and who is to say that one must sing the role perfectly to best embody these qualities.

    Its all a matter of opinion, but I once again am here to sound in on the side of those who find her performances moving and compelling and exactly “right” for the perfectly imperfect Diana.

  22. Ryan says:

    Just saw N2N at the Kennedy Center (7/3, 7:30pm show). At first I was extremely disappointed to see the announcement that the understudy, Pearl Sun, would be going on for Alice. However, as soon as I was seated I realized that the theater was abuzz with talk about the excruciatingly painful vocals that Ripley had been giving over the past few nights. The N2N groupies sitting next to me saw the matinee and said that Alice was in really bad shape and barely hit a single note. Suddenly, it seemed like the understudy wasn’t such a bad idea, and in fact, Pearl was great. I am not a fan of color-blind casting when there is a total disregard for the racial composition of the characters and their families, but Pearl was very believable in the role, and the casting worked. Plus she exhibited herself as a fine actress and an amazing singer. I so wish that I could have seen the famed magic of Alice Ripley in the role of Diana, but I think I would have only been disappointed had she gone on. I hope that Ripley gets the vocal rest that she needs.

  23. Sally says:

    Ok, now it’s my turn. Let me start by stating that my passion is Broadway musicals, and I save my money so that I can see as many as I can. That being said, I’ve seen many musicals on Broadway and on tour, and I have NEVER experienced anything quite like I heard on Friday, 6/24. I made the decision to travel to Philly to see Alice in N2N, quite excited — love the music and the performances on the CD. My son, who joined me, knows his musicals, as well, having performed as a young boy in summer stock productions. Before I continue, let me start by saying, stop with the “bullying” labels. Telling the truth is NOT bullying. I know my music, and I know my musicals. Alice was horrible (sorry!). I wish she wasn’t…it would have made for a more enjoyable evening. The rest of the cast was spot on — amazing…even more so considering they had to stay ON KEY when Alice was not. My son, who was not familiar with the show (he loved it AND the score, BTW), was very distracted by the Alice’s singing (she was flat much of the time and couldn’t hit many of the higher notes…her voice really does sound damaged). I don’t care what anyone says, including Alice: If, during intermission, patrons are theorizing that her singing is off on purpose because the show is titled, “Next to Normal” then something is wrong, OR if, after the show, random patrons are complaining at the train station about Alice’s performance (couldn’t understand the lyrics, thought her performances was sub-par, etc…and some were surprised to hear that she was a Tony Award winner for her role) then something is DEFINITELY wrong. Finally, if people are so bothered by a performance that they are compelled to GOOGLE it (again and again), then HELLO????? Something is definitely wrong!

    I am not a hater, nor am I a bully…but I speak the truth. Alice’s acting was spot-on; her singing (this is a MUSICAL, after all), was just plain bad. It really sounds as if Alice has damaged her voice. As I stated, I wish that I had heard the Alice on the CD or the YouTube performances. Sorry, Alice, but if I’ve learned anything from the time that my son was “in the business,” it’s that there are many exceptionally talented people who can carry the big roles… and if you cared about your audience, you wouldn’t allow your fans to spend their hard-earned money to hear a sub-par performance — it just isn’t right! I know that it’s a tough call — the show was promoted with you as the lead, but somewhere integrity has to kick in, and you have to say this isn’t fair to the people who spend A LOT of money to see this show. Refusing to acknowledge what responsible people are saying again and again, city after city, is just plain irresponsible. Alice, as another blogger recommended, let your stand-by finish out the tour and end the run with your head held high that you did the right thing…and let your vocal cords heal!

  24. Kevin says:

    I just saw Alice Ripley in Next to Normal at the Kennedy Center tonight (6/29/2011) and her singing was terrible. This was my first performance at the Kennedy Center. I’ve never heard such a terrible singing voice on stage at any professional production (including small plays in small towns). I almost cringed everytime she sang, and I was dissapointed when she joined in songs with the other actors because she would ruin the song. Her voice was flat with terribly exagerated vibrato. My wife also had a similar reaction to her voice. Even though the other performances were very good, I was shocked that the performance was allowed. I didn’t come to the Kennedy center to see a famous play, I just came for a good performance. I see from this forum that Ms. Ripley consistently has problems with her singing. Why would a respectable theater book this terrible act?

  25. Susan says:

    I saw this show Saturday afternoon and was so annoyed by Alice’s voice. I paid alot of money to see this show adn waht I saw/heard was an actress to giving it or not being able to give it 100%. I had read blogs about Alice’s voice but took a chance on seeing something great. Well I did, but not in Alice. The best was Emma/ Natalie. She even got a bigger round of applause than Alice. I was so annoyed that I even called the theater today to tell them how disappointed to me the show was. The person I spoke to did not even see the show. It is time for Alice to call it quits. Let Pearl finish the show in DC. Those people are paying to see and hear a good show.

  26. raysongrrl says:

    i, too, was at the academy this saturday (june 25) seeing next to normal. we have been subscribers for 4 years, and this was the first time i had to question the performance. i am glad alice performed in the show, b/c i would truly have thought i was missing out on seeing something special if it was an understudy or alternate. however, her performance was nothing like what i was expecting, and in fact it was difficult to sit through. i am not proposing that i can do better, or than i know anything about her struggles in this role. all i am saying is that from an audience standpoint-and to know this has been going on for over a year-and they continue to sell these tickets…it’s shameful. her acting, her acting, was great. real. true. it was the singing vocals. someone heard me commenting after, and said they saw her on broadway and she didn’t sound like this. they said if they would have seen this performance on broadway, they would have asked for their money back. that the perfomance compelled attendees to google her, or see if she’s always sounded like this, or see if there’s something wrong with her voice-that should be saying something loud and clear.

  27. Billy says:

    Am devastated by what I heard in the show last night. Ms. Ripley is an incredibly talented woman, but the obvious damange this role has inflicted upon her is a case study in vocal strain. The fact that she seems committed to “finishing what she has begun” with the role of Diana regardless of the cost to her instrument is what is so bewildering. One would think that realizing the toll the role is taking and protecting one’s instrument for the sake of one’s career would be a more advantageous route to go. The fact that her family isn’t giving her more sage advice is odd. The fact that the producers are allowing this to happen is no surprise: she’s the ticket-sellinig name which attracts people to the show which is no easy task across the heartland. Alice’s performance leading up to the Tony Award speaks for itself. She’s a gifted artist. But in many ways, she’s become like Diana: lost on stage in a world/production that is swirling around her without her fully realizing has far astray she has become. For her sake, I would hope she would end her run (even for the last month) and begin the healing process. My great fear is that irreparable damage has been done to that really unique voice. All of this is offered in support of Ms. Ripley.

  28. Spencer says:

    It was like watching Willie Mays play for the Mets at the end of his career. My wife and I witnessed the Alice Ripley trainwreck last night at the Academy of Music. At least, her flat voice sometimes distacted from her bizarre enunciation of the lyrics. We felt compelled to Google her name when we got home. It was very disappointing to see people writing about her awful vocal performance for more then a year. The producers of the tour use her Tony as a means to sell the show, so I am left feeling totally ripped off. Based on other conversations overheard at intermission and after the show, many people found Ms Ripley’s vocals completely distracting from a musical that had the potential to be very good. I hope Ms Ripley considers letting go.

  29. Christopher says:

    Saw N2N at the Academy of Music last night in Philadelphia. Brilliant show, but as this blog has suggested, Alice Ripley needs to take some time off and rest her voice before she permanantely damages her vocal chords. Her vocal problems take away from her performance and made me feel very uncomfortable. I am a singer having worked in numerous shows Off-Broadway and have heard this type of fatigue and strain before. It found it so disturbing to listen to (the flat pitch, the strange vowel sounds, the extreme raspiness, the unintelligable diction) that I was “pulled out of the story” many times thoughout the evening in concern for her well-being. It made for a much less enjoyable evening of theater than it should have been. The rest of the cast was terrific. Bravo!! The producers should step in and demand that she take some time. This is not fair to her or the audiences across America paying top dollar.

  30. Director L says:

    I really am dismayed by most of the above comments. I saw Alice in N2N on Broadway. She literally blew me away. He voice, somewhat strained, is perfect for the part of Diana. I saw her again in LA and just recently in Phila. She is probably the greatest actress to grace a Broadway stage. She reminds me of Meryl Streep in film. And her voice was excellent. Emma H. was amazing but she is like 20. I would feel quite cheated if I went and saw an understudy. Alice– if you read this, and I am sure you are immune to these amateur ignorant critiques , you are awesome and every time you grace the stage as Diana Goodman, we in the audience are blessed. The majority of people who dont have time to write non sense like above love you. Thank you for doing this tour! You are simply amazing…..

  31. Robin says:

    I agree. Saw the show in Cleveland and her voice is a shadow of what it used to be. I found a clip online of her singing on The View and it was like a completely different person.

  32. Marilyn says:

    I am so grateful to find this blog, despite the fact that it was written almost a year ago. It just affirms my own reaction to the show. I saw the N2N tour in St. Paul last month, and was horrified and scared by what I heard come out of Alice Ripley’s mouth. I have been a huge fan of hers for years – loved Sideshow, and her duet albums with Emily Skinner are spectacular! Alice has a severely fatigued (probably damaged) voice, and I hope for the sake of her brilliant career, she takes some time off from this demanding show to allow herself to recover. Her acting is BRILLIANT, but I was so polarized by her performance – I wanted so badly to see her, but I could barely stand to *listen* to her.

  33. Louise G says:

    “Alice’s voice completely and utterly ruined the show for me and everyone I was with. I don’t care if she originated the role and won a tony and whatever… she sounded horrendous. By the end of the show”
    What he said, except for the “By the end of the show” part. Saw the show tonight in Cleveland and left at intermission. This is not right. She has damaged her voice. It needs a rest. It is bad for her to keep singing. I am disappointed in who-ever is telling her it is fine to keep on singing. Augh! (Without her, the show was lost.)

  34. Adam says:

    Just saw the traveling show last night with Alice Ripley as Diana. The show was well done and the music is great, but Alice’s voice completely and utterly ruined the show for me and everyone I was with. I don’t care if she originated the role and won a tony and whatever… she sounded horrendous. By the end of the show she had almost no SPEAKING voice left, let alone any tone in her weird, heavy-on-the-vibrato, ghostlike singing voice. I know this is not what she used to sound like, but it is what she sounds like today. I don’t think she should be allowed to go on stage because it seemed to be affecting the other performers as they reacted to how off-pitch she was. A lot of the group songs sounded empty because she was clearly pulling back when she wasn’t singing solo. It also affected her acting, in that it made her face twist up in ways that I don’t believe it was supposed to. Frankly, I cannot believe that she allows herself to keep doing this – it is embarrassing. And I can’t believe a director, or the rest of the cast and crew would let it continue, because I think it is ruining a wonderful show for literally THOUSANDS of people. I cannot wait until someone else takes up the role so I can hear how it is supposed to sound. This may sound harsh, but so did she in the performance in Cleveland last night.

  35. Megan S. says:

    Just saw the show in Mpls last night. I echo the author’s thoughts and many of those who commented. I once aspired to be on the Broadway stage and I can completely identify with the fatigue you experience performing night after night. However, when you have a paying audience and at least one willing understudy, it’s time to relinquish the role and get some much needed rest. I rushed tickets so at least my wallet’s a little heavier than others who paid full ticket price for that performance. I got half the performance so it seems fair that I only had to pay half the price. Regardless, it’s a bit of a rip off. No disrespect intended toward the talented Ms. Ripley, but her performance N2N needs some RNR.

  36. Erica says:

    I fell in love with NtoN when I saw it in its final weeks on Broadway. I didn’t see the original Diane, or her substitute… I saw an understudy or 3rd substitute who was EXTRAORDINARY. Everyone in that packed house knew that they were watching magic.

    So – I was excited that the touring show offered the prospect of hearing 2 of the persons who created their roles (Diane and the daughter). Unfortunately – Ms. Ripley’s performance with vacillating vocal quality, difficulty with enunciation, odd phrasing at times, and somewhat slower reactions on stage all contributed to a lesser show. I had brought 3 friends to enjoy the magic that I’d had on Broadway. I’d hoped for an amazing show with extraordinary impact. At the end all of them complimented me on the great seats I’d bought, which is like leaving a show humming the scenery. I won’t second guess if the show’s director should have substituted an understudy. I might have been disappointed at not seeing Ms. Ripley, but knowing that I have friends going in the second week of the play, I’d recommend strong consideration of an understudy. I feel pretty sure that my 3 friends would have had closer to the experience I’d originally planned if Ms. Ripley’s understudy had gone on.

    I deeply respect Ms. Ripley’s commitment to the show, but she does neither herself nor the show any good by worsening her condition each night.

  37. Eli says:

    I have seen N2N twice during the Chicago stop, once with the understudy Pearl Sun in the role of Diana and once last evening with Alice Ripley. Sadly to report, it is far more preferable with the understudy. Something has severely deterioated with Ripley’s voice. She sounds nothing like the voice on the CD or the performances at the Tony’s or “The View”. She has lost at least an octave in her voice scale and sounds nasal (like a cold) with poor diction. Frankly, it was awful, especially next to her outstanding fellow cast members. When she is singing next to the actress playing her daughter (the only other female voice in the show), it was painful to compare. No matter how outstanding her acting remains (and it is still excellent), the voice is now a distraction for this powerful show.

    It was reported locally that Ripley has missed eight performances in a row in Chicago because of a leg injury and a cold. I think the producers are not being forthright because it’s clear that Ripley’s vocal issue is a chronic problem dating back to at least a year, as reported here. I hope that Ripley takes a long time off and seeks serious professional help to recover her voice, as it was truly one of the best in recent Broadway memory. I sincerely hope that we hear her golden voice again someday. It’s in shambles at this point.

  38. Mary says:

    I have seen this show twice on Broadway, the first time in 2009 and the second in 2010. Both times the performances of all of the cast members were fantastic. Alice Ripley did not have any problems with her voice back then. The original cast recording of “Next to Normal” demonstrates she has a strong, clear voice. You can see her performance on “You Tube” at the 2009 Tony Awards singing with original cast members, J. Robert Spencer and Aaron Tveit. After seeing the show last night in Chicago, I saw how she struggled with her voice and apparently has been sick for some length of time. It is unfortunate and I only hope that her voice and health improves. So, I am sorry that Chicago did not get to see why Alice won the Tony for her performance on Broadway. I came to see the touring production because the book and lyrics by Brian Yorkey and music by Tom Kitt are pure genius. The set design by Mark Wendland and lighting design by Kevin Adams are fantastic. Of course, I also came to see Alice Ripley. If the understudy had sung last night–I would have been disappointed. However, for those who had not seen the play previously in New York, I understand your remarks. I only send good wishes for Alice’s speedy recovery and wish the touring production success. “Next to Normal” will always be one of my favorite plays. Alice, you will always be my favorite actress.

  39. Bob says:

    I saw Alice tonight in Chicago IL and I must concur with some of other reviewers that her voice was simply sub par and I thought she was under the weather but after reading these reviews, I’m believe her voice has deteriorated since the Tony awarded performance. That said, and I’m not trying to defend her but she still has 10x more talent than I will ever have but I simply couldn’t understand her while she was singing and I won’t go as far as she ruin the show for me but I wish I heard the understudy.

    Dear Alice, I’m not a hater and even as bad as people say you are, you’re still 10x better than I am.

  40. Doris says:

    I saw Alice Ripley in the matinee today and could not believe how off key and strained her voice sounded throughout the performance. I also could not understand over half of the words in the songs she sang. Yet her acting voice and presence were excellent. The contrast with the other excellent voices was evident. I understnad from a friend who saw and heard her understudy in the roled earlier this week that she was excellent. They play and music are outstanding, but I was clearly disappointed in the experience and felt embarrassed for her.

  41. DML says:

    I just saw the matinee of this outstanding and unusual rock musical today after a friend raved about seeing it earlier in the week with Alice Ripley’s understudy playing the lead role. Well, today, the star performed in it and sadly I must agree with the earlier critics that said her performance musically was poor. There was the Irish accent and consistently off key singing as well as an inablility to understand over 50 percent of the words sung. Yet her speaking voice was clear and acted very well. What is wrong here? The male lead was outstanding!

  42. Kevin says:

    I just saw Alice tonight. Like many of those on this post I am a longtime fan of Alice Ripley and have loved her performances for years… Sadly her voice has literally become a caricature of itself. It has become so murky, unstable and is flat for nearly the entire production. I wouldn’t have wanted to see the show without her but literally you could hear people in the audience making terrible remarks about it the entire show. She also seemed rather lazy and disinterested the entire show and I don’t mean in the way the character was supposed to come off. It really felt as if her heart just wasn’t in it anymore. I hope she has at least the option to leave if she wants.

  43. Sarahdangerrr says:

    I agree and disagree. I thought her performance was wonderful. The producers obviously gave her the role for a reason: she portrays the character well. I saw Next to Normal in San Diego and I was moved to tears. I understood nearly every word. There were a few issues with diction, but with the pacing of the majority of her numbers it would have been a mirical for us to understand every word. The reason she sounded “Irish” as some of you had stated, was because she needed some way to emote her distress through song other than meer inflection or facial expressions.

    Maybe I am deffending her because I know first hand how challenging singing is. Just understand that you cannot judge one’s performance on “pitch problems.” Everyone has issues with their voice from time to time. Let Alice do her job, which she kicks ass at.

  44. Richard says:

    Well my computer is not allowing me to get this comment right,
    so I will just say that we truly enjoyed N2N last night in Chicago
    Amazing cast. Amazing energy. Loved the high-tech stage production.
    Wondered of course about Alice Ripley’s voice and then learned
    shortly afterward that her voice has been deteriorating for months.
    Why producers allow her to go on and further hurt her vocal cords I
    don’t understand? But of course some things are all about money.
    I still believe she gave a “bravo” performance…an extremely
    rigorous role and she put everything she had into it! Take care
    Alice and thank you!

  45. Chicago Frank says:

    Saw the show in Chicago last night (4/27). Fantastic production! Loved the story. Loved music, musicians, scenery, lighting, and cast. Very, very high production values. Alice Ripley was awful. I visibly cringed each and every time she sang. I thought she was sick but a quick Google search has told me this is the way she performs every night. Her pronunciation of her vowels was so weird and distracting. Curtain call was the clue that I wasn’t alone. Father, son, and daughter got huge applause. Not so much for AR. She is an amazing actress but her voice ruined this show for me.

  46. Barbara/Chicago says:

    My husband and I have the chance to see Next to Normal last night in Chicago. Although I enjoyed the show. I don’t get why Ripely is playing the roll of Diane. Her voice is so painful to listen to. With all the amazing singers that a qualified to play the roll of Diane, my question is why Alice Ripely….Terrible to subject the paying theater goer to this. Shame, shame.

  47. CathieSTL says:

    I am saddened that Ms. Ripley feels compelled (or is contractually being compelled?) to keep trying to sing this role night after night. It sadly echoes the tone of denial in the subject matter of the play itself. I can understand if the producers feel the need to give us all the experience of her Tony-winning performance. But it is obvious from the comments of the past year that we are not getting that Tony-winning performance. The real tragedy is that most people will not search the internet to find videos of her 2009 performances, where she truly is amazing and with a powerful voice, free of vowel contortions, agonizing pitch problems, and that hooded quality that made you feel like you were listening to her from inside her larynx. They will just assume that Alice Ripley is an awful singer and that the Tony Awards are a sham. After the show Thursday night in St. Louis, I did just that, and my faith has been restored in the Tony awards, but the producers should be held accountable.

  48. Ashley says:

    I also saw the show in St Louis last night. I felt sorry for the other performers on stage. Her voice was terrible. She was off key and I couldnt understand a word she was saying. I WAS hoping that it was part of the show..but it seems to not be the case. Everytime she sang it made me cringe. Possibly time for a replacement?? Other then her voice, the show was pretty good.

  49. DarrelSTL says:

    Just saw the show in St. Louis this evening. Didn’t know much about it. Great seats, great sound, great set, great band, great supporting cast. Obviously Ms. Ripley, albeit a talented performer, has ruined her voice. I came home and listened to her other recordings/cast album and that was NOT the voice I heard tonight. I applaud her coworkers because there were times it was next to impossible to harmonize with her because she was off, sometimes by a half-step. I didn’t understand the Irish brogue in her lower range as well…probably how she’s coping with her ruined voice. Near the end there were times she was simply mouthing the words…her voice dropped out totally. If she sings all these shows AND sings in a band, she’s killing herself vocally, if she hasn’t done so already. I hope she gets professional help.

  50. Clint says:

    I saw her from 2nd row in Los Angeles, and she cries a LOT during the show. I don’t know how she does it.

  51. J says:

    Nick (#108), you obviously don’t know much about Ms. Ripley. She always types in all caps on her facebook, twitter, youtube, etc. You can look for yourself. It is undoubtedly her. I saw Ms. Ripley on tour and she was wonderful. Yes, her voice is weak and strained, but not the train wreck people are making it out to be.

  52. Megan says:

    I saw the show today in Pittsburgh. I thought the show was wonderful. Alice deserved every bit of that Tony. I will say that she had some notes that were slightly flat, but I think that may also be her interpretation of the character. She seems to be crying a lot of the time. It may be a bit hard for her to sing in tune while she is crying. But, overall, I loved it, and she is a fantastic actress.

  53. Kacie says:

    I, too, saw the show in Hartford and I disagree that her voice was painful to listen to. Yes, she doesn’t sound the same as on cast recordings of “Side Show” but this is a different role and calls for a rock style. Just as, if you saw her in “Company”, she is very different from “Side Show”. I think her voice, while perhaps tired from singing a rock score for a few years, is well suited for many types of material. And I happen to like what she does with this role, not only acting but vocally too.

  54. DSPitts says:

    I saw the Fri, April 8, performance in Pittsburgh and, again, Alice Ripley’s voice was raggedy. My friends stated that her pronunciation sounded as if she was deaf. It’s a shame that this is the same person who KILLED an Evita tune on a Youtube video from 2008. Sad…

  55. DSPitts says:

    I saw the Thurs, April 7, performance of N2N in Pittsburgh. Ms. Ripley’s voice was awful. I fondly remember a sweet, yet powerful, soprano voice from SIDE SHOW. However, she now has a VERY ragged alto. Even worse are her odd, Irish-like vowels. She might as well continue in this show as long as she wants because I cannot imagine anyone hiring her again in New York to perform in another musical. If you listen to the SS recording and then see her in the N2N tour, you will certainly think it’s two different people…and that’s not a compliment to her acting abilities. Sad…

  56. JPC says:

    I happened upon this thread because I was hoping to get tickets for my daughter in Philly. I’m a theatre professional who saw Alice in DC and NYC and then went back to see N2N with Marin. The show is cathartic and earned its Pulitzer All I can say is that Alice is breathtaking, & though her voice is not always “pretty,” she also deserved her TONY. I hope and pray that she will rest if she is sick because she is a performer to be treasured–as is this show.

  57. Melissa says:

    I saw Next to Normal Friday night in Hartford, CT. I loved the show, but did spend a majority of the time wondering if that was her voice or if she was suffering from a throat illness of some sort.

    Very low and raspy, didn’t seem to fit in well unless that was the point and I completed missed it.

    Great show, very heart wrenching.

  58. Kyle says:

    Just came from the performance in Hartford and, while I do agree that her voice was not conventionally “perfect,” I was very rarely distracted by Alice’s voice. Yes, she sounded tired (which is understandable considering the part she is playing), but she very rarely was off-pitch. Her tone had a somber, low ring to it but it was by no means off-pitch. She isn’t playing this role simply because she originated it, people, and she didn’t win a Tony because she cheated her way into it. Alice Ripley is a brilliant actress and singer and anyone who says otherwise should at the very least have the decency to say something away from the protection of a computer. She’s a woman with feelings and I can’t imagine that reading some of these outright foul comments does much for her; if you’re going to be critical, at least be intelligent in that. Don’t just insult her blindly.

  59. Bill says:

    I just saw the performance last evening at the Bushnell Theater in Hartford, CT. Though not a professional singer or musical theater critic, I have some musical background, and I enjoy my share of musical theater. Most importantly, I am the consumer and a member of the audience. Not to beat a dead horse, but Ms. Ripley’s voice was horrible. We are not talking the type of voice that hits the notes but strikes people the wrong way – like Geddy Lee, for example. This was a consistent off-key voice. Though I cannot put my finger on it, it’s almost as if Ms. Ripley was singing all the notes down an octave and then singing them flat. The problem is compounded by her incessant vibrato on every note she sings and the lack of clarity in any of the words she is singing. The other actors and actresses had incredible voices, and Ms. Ripley stood out like a sore thumb. By the end of the show, I was really at the point where every time she sang a line, I was cringing. I was in disbelief that this woman could have won the Tony for this role, and I was hopeful that I would Google this and find that she was ill or that that all other performances got rave reviews. I am disappointed to find that my disdain for her vocals in last night is a shared opinion.

    If I can hear it and you can year it, the producers of the show and the other actors and actresses can hear it. They should not let this continue. Frankly, it’s embarrassing to Ms. Ripley and unfair to the others in the show, let alone the audience who is paying $50 to $70 for a ticket.

  60. Maryann says:

    I saw the performance in Hartford on Thursday, March 31, and I was disappointed. This was my first experience with the show and I found Alice’s performance distracting. No, that is too kind. I found her performance ANNOYING. It’s not fair to the audience or the cast to allow her to continue in this role. She is a professional who is paid a healthy salary to deliver and night after night she fails to do so. One can’t rest on her laurels. I’m sorry Alice, but it’s time to take a break. I would like to see the show again with another leading lady. I think the others in the company were FANTASTIC and I really enjoyed them.

  61. Debbie says:

    I saw the show Wednesday March 30th. in Hartford, CT and my sentiment is with the majority here, although a good actress Alice Ripley’s voice was really difficult to listen to. At times it was even painful!

  62. Julie says:

    I saw Next to Normal with Marin Mazzie on Broadway, and it was one of the most remarkable theater experiences I ever had. And she was absolutely BRILLIANT. Then we heard that Alice Ripley was coming to the Bushnell (CT theater near me), so, my daughter bought tickets for my birthday. After all, someone who won the Tony for this part and is purported to be even better than Marin Mazzie — how amazing would that be?! Well, ladies and gentlemen, I thought she absolutely SUCKED. Not only was her voice horrible and unintelligible, I thought her acting was too understated. It’s still an amazing show — but thank God I had already seen it with someone else on Broadway who could actually sing and emote with tremendous life and edge and vivacity and vulnerability. I didn’t think Alice Ripley held a candle to Marin Mazzie and I’m very puzzled about her Tony.

  63. Nick says:

    I think it’s funny that people believe that it was actually Alice Ripley that left the two comments here as RIPLEYTHEBAND. I think the CAPS and terrible grammar are clues that these comments weren’t written by the Tony winning artist.

  64. Louise says:

    I saw her twice in SF and thought she was fantastic.

  65. MarkLMT says:

    Saw the Saturday, March 26th 2pm matinee in Providence RI. Also saw N2N in NYC. Alice Ripley is remarkable. She has settled into this most challenging and demanding role with power and grace. Haters: shove your elitist umlauts and 1/4 notes. She is giving a brave and compelling performance. Go see it. You’ll be riveted.

  66. TJS says:

    It is interesting to read the average person’s review of Alice Ripley. After attending Next to Normal last weekend in Des Moines with 3 other people, I was satisfied yet questioning the show’s quality of performance.

    Not knowing much about the show, I turned to the playbill and read time and time again that Alice Ripley received the 2009 Tony for best actress in a musical. While watching the show I could clearly identify why this talented woman received the award for best actress in a musical. She was phenomenal and portrayed a mentally ill woman who struggles to balance and successfully manage her life and the family she was part of. I definitely enjoyed her acting; a role most of us would find incredibly hard to execute.

    Now, when it came to her vocal delivery – I was unfortunately deprived of the performance I have come to expect and demand from a traveling production. If I were looking for mediocre vocal performances, I would not pursue tickets for a traveling production cast. While the rest of the entire cast meet every expectation I had for a show of this caliber, I was saddened by Alice Ripley’s performance. Her pitch accuracy was less than satisfying and diction sounded foreign to me; as if she was pronouncing her vowels with a European accent/dialect. I tried to give her the benefit of doubt thinking “since she is playing a mentally ill woman; the struggle is coming through her signing.”

    I went home and bought the soundtrack which Alice recorded and noticed the recording supplies an excellent rendition of Alice performing the score of Next to Normal and the pitch was excellent while the diction still had issues; sounded more like a Canadian singing accent.

    All in all, Alice gives an excellent acting experience worthy of her 2009 Tony for best actress in a musical but does not deliver the vocal performance most have come to expect from a Broadway caliber actress/actor. I think a logical career move for Alice would be to stick to plays and venture into cinema; let the musicals to those gifted in vocal execution.

  67. Patrick says:

    I agree with DWW, I just saw Alice Ripley in Next to Normal this afternoon in Providence. Her voice does show some strain like she’s been playing this part for two years, but she manages to stay on key for the most part and her acting is probably one of the best I have ever seen. I was so glad that I got to see her. To say that she didn’t hit a single note is a gross exaggeration. And to add what DWW said about her caring about her fans, her heart is certainly in the right place and actually a few of my friends have met her and they’re very friendly with her (from what I’ve heard from them, she’s friendly) . So her vocals may not be as good as they were early in the run, but her heart is still in the right place and she delivers the dramatic goods wonderfully. I hope Alice though does get some rest soon because she has worked so hard in the role of Diana these past two years.

  68. Ashley says:

    I saw Next to Normal last weekend and was blown away. What an incredibly captivating story with strong emotion and excitement hidden within every moment. Alice Ripley is a phenomenal and talented individual who deserves far more credit than she was given by the majority of the critics on this page.

    The role of Diana obviously requires a lot of energy, focus, and strain to her vocals. Regardless of your opinion on her performance, why do you feel the need to get online and publically take her down? I would imagine if Ms. Ripley, or the producers of the show, felt she was not doing Next to Normal a service, they would ask her understudy to perform. After all, isn’t that the point of an understudy?

  69. DWW says:

    Let me try to see both sides of this — as best I can.

    Yeah, she’s having some voice issues. But I must question that it’s as bad as some of you describe — at least on a consistent basis. But to give your gripes a fair shake, I found bootleg audio of one of her performances from just last month. Yes, her voice sounds worn at times. Other times she sounds pretty much the same as when I saw her on Broadway — early in the run. Either way, I can’t believe that she’s failing to sing “a single note on key.” Come on.

    Yes, it may be worse on some days. But the fact is, some of you simply don’t *like* her performance or the tone of her voice. And that’s fine. But while you are entitled to your opinion, I don’t believe you’re entitled to a refund.

    The tour producers want her to be able to finish the run. But believe me, what they most care about is the bottom line. If she was delivering the horrific overall performances you claim she is, and if her acting wasn’t more than enough to make up for a tired voice, she would absolutely be replaced.

    As for Alice’s comments: Yeah, she should know better than to try to respond to critics. It makes her sound bad. But as for the idea that she doesn’t care about her fans: Ridiculous. Anyone who has looked into this even a little bit wouldn’t say such a thing. She may not be the only Broadway star to be gracious at the stage door and respond to fans on Twitter, but she definitely goes above and beyond in those areas. And find me another Tony winner who will invite you to play Scrabble with her online, and then chat with you while you play.

  70. Lisa says:

    Alice commented on this blog a couple of times and I have to say, I am really saddened by her words in comment 64. Alice, many of the people commenting here ARE your fans. They paid tickets to see the show BECAUSE of YOU. You are right, most of us haven’t seen you 8 nights in a row, week after week, but this blog clearly shows that night after night audiences are having the same experience and are moved to seek out consolation on the internet that they are not alone in their reactions. The quality of your performance aside, your comments on this blog make crystal clear your distain for your audience. Perhaps in your mind we are nothing but ignorant plebeians but you enjoy your success in great part because we have invested in your performances- live and via CD sales. Think about that every time you cash your paycheck, please. For god’s sake, show some respect for the masses of people who have helped make you famous by attending your shows. Your comments make you sound like an ungrateful and self-important diva. If you want to make art and you aren’t interested in our opinions, there are plenty of other venues for that outside of a hit Broadway musical. Of course, they might not pay as well. But at least you won’t have all us pesky audience members who paid hundreds of dollars in tickets, parking, babysitters and the like to see N2N voicing disappointment over your performance.

  71. Meg says:

    It is really disgusting seeing so many people join in a nasty game of grown up, let’s be a bully. Fine, so Ms. Ripley’s performance may not be for everyone but there is a big contingent of those who love it. Probably, we are not bitter enough to sit around trolling the internet for places to put others down. And thank heavens for that.
    Having seen the show 8 times (in various cities) and being a fellow working actor, I feel that my value judgment is just as valid as yours. And, trust me, I am far from alone.
    From a review in Time Out NY from 2009 (
    “As Diana in the surprising and moving Next to Normal, Alice Ripley has a voice like steel wool: It’s tough and cloudy at once, and it scrubs to the core. There’s something slightly off about Ripley’s singing—the notes sometimes claw their way up from just under pitch—and this raggedness is perfectly attuned to the mental distress of her character, a psychotic suburban mother guiltily aware of the burden her illness brings to her family. There is nothing glamorous or camp about this unlikely musical-theater heroine, and Ripley is riveting.”

    This is from 2009, when her voice was not strained or hurt at all. Perhaps, this is an acting choice. Perhaps, she’s a damn good actress and would rather inhabit the character fully rather than simply sing beautifully. I’ve seen her in other shows and I guarantee that she has no pitch problems, so it is safe to assume these are ways of making Diana more “next to normal”. This may not be everyone’s cup of tea, however most of the “great” actors of today and yesteryear would do the same.
    Finally, if you know anything about Alice Ripley (and I’m guessing, by the rather lame comments, most people here don’t), she is a genuine person who gives back to the fans and gives herself 150% to the role every show. If you want the sound of a recording and perfection, then just turn on your stereo. If you want to see what I believe to be one of the most fearless and committed performances out there, then drop your belief of “perfect” singing and get immersed in Diana’s world. I assure you, without the judgmental filters, you might just enjoy it.
    And, if Alice Ripley happens to come back and read this, know that there are so many of us who love and support you and feel you’re singing the show just as it should be sung. So, thank you.

  72. SJJ says:

    The Sunday evening performance in Des Moines was very painful for the audience. Everyone around us was discussing the voice issue during intermission and after the show. I am sure this is very painful for Ms. Ripley, too, and I hope her producers will help her find a way to get her voice back. In the meantime, because her role is such a major force in the musical, her standby needs to be called upon more often — if not permanently. Good luck!

  73. Broadway Babe says:

    Just saw the show in Des Moines. I’ve seen over 100 broadway shows and I have to say Alice’s performance was THE WORST, MOST HORRIFICE VOCAL, I’ve ever seen in a show. She was not in tune for one note, not one note. What a shame people are paying good money to see her. The rest of the cast was superb though!

  74. Bacon says:

    You all realize that the 5th Avenue would have absolutely nothing to do with Alice performing right? Complain all you want, but its not their fault. On a touring production, they presenting house has no say in who is in the show and who isn’t so they’re probably having just as many issues as you are. If you want to write to somebody and complain, write to the touring production, not the poor people at the theatre.

  75. Dana says:

    I will also be contacting the 5th ave to complain. It was one of the most painful theatre experiences I have ever had to sit through. The rest of the cast was so wonderful. I would cringe every time Alice started singing, and felt relief when she would stop. I am really in disbelief that no one has done something about this yet…

  76. Tara says:

    Just saw the show tonight. Great set, wonderful characters and issues really drew me in. But, when Alice sang, it was really awful and distracting. At first I thought it was intentional, but it was like a tearful voice with no tears . . . the exaggerated nature of her voice was distracting. Never saw her before so this is no attack on her – I am sure she is very talented, but really was not up to par with the other outstanding voices. Glad to see the understudy for the doctor who I have seen in Rent and loved. And, speaking of stressful musicals to perform night after night, what about Rent? A very intense and energetic show and those performers rocked it out night after night. If your voice is overdone and you respect the voice and the role, then its time to put someone in who can do the role justice both acting AND vocally justice. I have seen some of my favorite singers and performers on stage years after they hit it big – some great (kudos to Anthony Rapp and Adam Pascal in Seattle last year) and some not so – I would rather remember them all at their best.

  77. Patrick says:

    I was so excited to see this show in Seattle as I had always wanted to see and hear Alice Ripley ever since “Side Show”, which I wasn’t fortunate to see on BWay.

    I was warned before seeing this how bad Alice’s voice was and I just shrugged it off. I guess I didn’t prepare myself for it. Wow. What a great show, and what a terrible disappointment Alice was. I thought maybe this was recent, and then I see this review and all the subsequent comments since last JUNE!?!

    I’m shocked the production has allowed Alice to continue on like they have. People spend hard earned money and while occasionally I understand a show may not be up to par because someone is having an off night, this has been going on for 9 months?!? What a shame.

    And then I see Ms Ripley (allegedly) posting here too? What the hell? If that’s really her, then how embarrassing. I was willing to give Alice the benefit of the doubt but the fact she knows how she is perceived and proceeds to tell US that we are wrong or don’t know what we’re talking about? Seriously? Congrats on your Tony, as I’m sure it was well deserved. It’s too bad that great honor is now tainted. It’s time to take a break and respect your audience who paid hard earned money to see a professional singer. What we’re seeing and hearing is not this. Please take a break before you damage your voice even more.

  78. seeker says:

    Boy, I just saw
    the performance and thought the intentional use of vowels rather than the ahhh normally use use were just that, intentional. The vibrato that seemingly to almost consisting of two note at once a little flat and on were used to instill upon the audience the mental unstableness of the character. I am impressed by that boldness and choose to believe that was the intention. Am I wrong or are most of these opinions. I guess thats subjective, I liked it, there were many feel good notes to show disparity for you close minded sissys.

  79. MC says:

    There is a reason Alice Ripley earned a Tony Award for this show, and it’s quite despicable that some of you are questioning it. She’s a brilliant actress and human being that brought Diana to life with incredible heart, and didn’t go unrecognized for this. Alice, you know there are so many of us who love you to death, so I hope that you don’t let these naysayers get under your skin. They are simply not worth your time!

  80. Jean says:

    Joe Meyers July article is more relevant now, eight months after it was posted, because it’s clear now the issue at hand is not likely a cold or laryngitis. Read symptoms of vocal nodules here: & the need for TOTAL vocal rest to heal nodules here: True fans shouldn’t encourage their hero to ruin with sentiment such as “we only want Alice.” It is the equivalent of arguing a drunk friends is okay to drive home. The matter of producers billing Alice Ripley in this show for another 36 weeks, and the unfairness to audiences? That is a separate issue that also confirms the importance of keeping this thread online.

  81. Joe says:

    I have intentionally refrained from any further comment on this subject because I believe a comments section should be for readers. Clearly, my blog post on Alice Ripley’s performance in “Next to Normal” last summer has been found on search engines by national tour audience members – and fans – months after I had my say.
    To those who have written that I should “close” the comments section, I will only say that if I had done that a few weeks ago, their support of Ms. Ripley would have gone unrecorded here.
    Artists who perform in public have to be prepared for both good and bad reactions to their work, just as I have to accept some of the extremely derogatory remarks people have made about me (and my motives) in the course of their defense of Alice Ripley (who happens to be an actress and singer I have admired for many years).

  82. Teresa says:

    An audience is not in attendance to assuage or validate an actor’s ego. The audience paid to be entertained and is entitled to the best performance possible. If an actor is unable to fulfill a role adequately in all aspects (singing, dancing, etc.)required for each and every performance,then it is that actor’s responsibility to their craft and to their audience to remove themself from the production until such a time that they can fulfill their obligation to the audience. I saw the show last night, and while Ms. Ripley showed great heart, her voice was completely shot in the second act. It was embarrassing.

  83. RSdivamom says:

    I really hope that this blog can be put to rest. This article was written last July and this place has become a negative place that’s attacking someone none of you even know.
    Alice, you are fierce -never forget it. as Ellen said in her comment-we do know you and we only want Alice. You have taken a topic that is so often taboo and brought it into mainstream America on this tour. I have a feeling that some of the other cities in this country will be more welcoming and full of more people who appreciate your art. Until then stay ALICE and to the author of the article that started this firestorm please have the class to close this blog for comments. Enough is enough.

  84. Todd says:

    I have seen N2N 8 times on Broadway and 5 times just in Seattle- ALice is the reason I want to be an actor- She is simply the best and I am honored to have got the chance to see her live on stage again in Seattle!

  85. Faberry says:

    I have seen Alice Ripley several times now and have been blown away every time. Keep doing what you are doing, Alice. I appreciate what you give and what you do on that stage each night. And I thank you for it.

  86. Ellen Barnett says:

    This is agony. No one, NO ONE can perform this part like Alice Ripley. She created Diana and the rest are pretenders. I don’t want to see anyone else but Alice. Maybe it’s time to admit that this intense of a show just can’t be done 8 times a week. Just because some production company wants it, it’s just not right. We want Alice Ripley. Even if it’s on Saturdays only. I’d pay $500 to see her if she promises to rest her voice for 6 days before the performance. WE KNOW WHO YOU ARE, AND WE ONLY WANT YOU!

  87. Apple says:

    It is very obvious that Alice Ripley is under vocal strain, but regardless, the energy she brings to the show is absolutely breath-taking. The amount of hate she’s getting because of her current vocal situation, especially on a forum where she has most blatantly posted herself, is not okay. She has been involved in this project for a very, very long time, and to you singers who are tearing her apart – Try belting all of Diana’s parts as Alice does on the cast recording every night for a week or two. Your voice will become tired, it’s inevitable. She’s been doing this for the better part of two years.
    Can we stop this now? Can you imagine being in contract in a show that you helped bring to life, that you won a Tony award for… And then coming onto a page like this and seeing all of these truly hateful remarks and comments? Give it a rest. Alice Ripley is a GIFT. She commands the stage like it’s nobody’s business and she has changed so many lives with her portrayal of Diana.
    So, Alice, I hope you understand that no matter what you choose to do, you will always be supported unconditionally by your fans who truly understand what you have brought to the theatre community. Keep being fierce.

  88. Steven says:

    Watch this, the way Alice originally was as Diana off-broadway:


  89. Ruth says:

    I saw Pearl Sun as Diana this afternoon and she and the rest of the cast were inspiring. Ms. Sun was on pitch and the ensemble singing was a delight. To Ms. Ripley and her defenders: misjudging your voice’s limits is understandable in a dedicated professional, but blaming the audience for noticing poor vocal quality is ridiculous. If your voice is overused, accept the facts and take care of it by resting it. This is a great show in itself and your contributions will be remembered. Let it go on without you.

  90. Todd says:

    No matter what you all say…Alice Ripley is the Shit!! I only hope one day to be as talented as her! She is simply amazing!!

  91. molly says:

    Intonation in many of Diane’s numbers was sadly flat. A friend who was with me attributed it to an actor’s take on expressing the fact she was “next to normal” so wasn’t singing ‘normally’. Well, if it was, it’s a painful for the audience…others in the cast were “nicely normal” when it came to their intonation.

  92. Bacon says:

    Oh, its just the $20 see it again deal you mean? 5th Avenue does that for almost ever show they have. It has nothing to do with sales. I saw Catch Me If You Can like 15 times that way! Its a great deal! :) I really hope they do it for Aladdin this summer, thats one Ill want to see over and over.

  93. GregCardinal says:

    I’m a real smart guy, but I’ll keep it simple. Saw the show Friday Night (3/4) Alice sounded bad, the other actors sounded good. okay, so that’s that then.

  94. Rachel says:

    I agree that while Alice’s acting is superb, if you do not already know the lyrics (as I didn’t on 2/26) it is hard to understand what she is singing so it is hard to stay engaged. That being said, the show is AMAZING. I bought the cast recording, fell in absolute love with the songs, so returned to see it again on 3/1, and will probably go again before it leaves Seattle 3/13. Gabe is the most interesting and complex character I’ve seen in musical theater, and Curt Hansen is electric. Do not miss the opportunity to see this show.

  95. Dan says:

    lay off the name calling man. Alice writes like that EVERYWHERE man. get used to it. it’s nothing personal. it’s the way she way she communicates. :) this article on the other hand is WAY harsh and really ridiculous. About time to close the comments on this article don’t you think Joe? Or are you just trying to get more hits for your little Connecticut Entertainment blog man? Really pathetic of you either way good sir…

  96. Steven says:

    RIPLEYTHEBAND, saw you on broadway 6 times as Diana. Loved you. Screw other people. You won the tony for a reason.

  97. JCB says:

    So her voice isn’t what it used to be. So what? Her phemonenal acting and commanding presence make up for it. She bares her soul as Diana. It saddens me that people can’t get past her voice and see what a gift she is.

  98. LTO says:

    Bacon – We thought at first maybe she was supposed to sound that way precisely for the reason you said, but on Sudnay Ms. Ripley’s voice was sooo far gone that you couldn’t hear much of anything in the upper register and she was replaced by her understudy at intermission, which confirmed that this was not how it was supposed to be. I was really sad not to see the rest of her performance, which acting wise was brilliant, but vocally, it really was hard to listen to, and after listening to the understudy in the second half and the cast album, it was clear that this was not a performance choice. I really hope she gets the vocal rest she needs. I’m sure she’s under enormous pressure to go on, becuase so many of us are dying to see her perform, so I don’t blame her. I just hope she gets better before the end of the Seattle run. They just announced the $20 deal and I would gladly take advantage of that if she is back in the run with her voice at elast mostly back.

  99. ThePINKelephant says:

    Roses are red
    Violets are blue
    You call her a “braying donkey”
    Yet she has a Tony
    So the big question is
    Who the F@$# are you??

  100. Bacon says:

    @John from what ive heard, this show is selling like gang busters. they didnt even send us the normal deal we get for being on their mailing list and its not on any of the deal sites. where do you get $20 tickets? i’d love to know!

  101. RSdivamom says:

    I could not agree more w/ Bacon’s comments. This is a role that shows so clearly the unraveling of Diana. No one can pull off this role as well as Alice Ripley. I am frankly surprised that so many professed theater experts and performers are weighing in here in such a negative way. Any performer knows that there isn’t a single performance that is duplicated from one night to another. theater is fluid motion-and Alice is correct in her post when she says to have an informed opinion people would have to see the show 8 times a week night after night. i think it’s offensive to use a negative article to voice nasty critiques of a performance when so many of you are performers yourself. Alice is a true talent, a rare gem and is playing the part to perfection as are her fellow cast mates. Audiences feed the soul of a performer with their energy, and I truly feel that if people can watch a show and walk away with enough anger about something to use a place like this as a forum, they shouldn’t ever attend the theater. bad audiences are the worst.

  102. B. Char says:

    To reply to your post above (#64): it is wonderful you earned a Tony for your talent, ambition, beauty and hard work. Bravo. I’m sure you earned it. I had never heard your name before last weekend (after your performance), although I had listened to your voice with joy over and over on the wonderful cast recording of Next To Normal. It had been that recording that made me want to see the play. But your voice last weekend was vastly off-key on every single song. It must be an awful strain to sing 8 shows a week, like a lovely, spirited racehorse being run into the ground. But to knowingly perform with vocal damage (nodes?) at a string of prime theaters filled with patrons who have scrimped and saved for their heavenly evening out– it seems very unfair. Consider Julie Andrews (Golden Globe, Grammy, Emmy, Academy Award winner) who is just one of stars more famous than yourself who has had to take time off to heal a damaged voice.

  103. Bacon says:

    Ive always thought she was supposed to sound like that..Ive seen Alice 3 times (once towards the very beginning of the Broadway run), the Marin Mazzie lady that replaced her on Broadway once, and then the understudy for the replacement another time, and both of those women performed the role in the same way. They may not have gone flat as often as Alice seems to (Ive only ever noticed this during I Miss the Mountains, personally), but the strained/in pain nature of their voice was the same. This character is not supposed to sound like the other characters in the cast..The girl playing the daughter always has a crystal clear, almost perfect voice, and all the men are tenors who sing higher than most women..Her performance, and her singing are supposed to be the outward manifestations of her conditions..thats what Ive always figured.

  104. John says:

    Alice, in response to your 3/1 post, we come to the theatre, paying our good money from our regular jobs, to be inspired, transported, and enlightened. When we expect those things, as well we should, and are so profoundly disappointed, we have a right to cry foul! We don’t exist to tear you down, we exist for you to lift us up. When the opposite happens, you get to hear about it – that’s the risk of you putting yourself out there in the first place. Your art does not exist in a vacuum – it is our dollars that pay for the set, the lights, your costume, and the trucks that haul it all around, not to mention your salary. We deserve performances worthy of our expectations.

  105. John says:

    Now she’s posting on here in all caps like a petulant child? Wow, more tragic than I thought!

  106. John says:

    I saw her in Seattle this week. It was painful. It was on par with some of the worst community theatre singing I’ve had to endure. Truly sad to see someone in this state. She must know how tragic she sounds. I concur that she a acted well, but given that I couldn’t understand half of what she was singing to begin with, who knows if it really made sense from a plot/motivation prospective. Her bio says she credits “those out there in the dark” – the audience – for her performances, but what could be more disrespectful to people than going on with the show while sounding like a dying cat? I was offended and want my money back. Ms. Ripley should bow out until she’s better vocally, all that I’ve talked to about the show have agreed and they are having trouble selling it here in Seattle – offering $20 tickets. It’s really unfortunate as I think the material is great, but don’t waste your money.


  108. LM says:

    I am so disappointed that The 5th Avenue Theater in Seattle has knowingly marketed this show based on Ms. Ripley’s particpation and has benefited by selling tickets at a premium price. Like many others, I purchased tickets solely based on the fact that she was in it, and feel betrayed to learn that her vocal problems have been ongoing for months and yet she is still starring in the show. I hope the theater will rethink its “all sales are final” policy given tickets were sold with information we did not have. This is nothing personal against Ms. Ripley, but let’s face it…. when you have ongoing serious vocals problems for months, it’s not a simple case of laryngitis. When is it time to be fair and truthful with the ticket buying public????

  109. Ben says:

    I saw Next to Normal last night (27th) and agree with other’s that something seemed very off with Ms. Ripley’s voice. While I was grateful to see a legend perform a role she originated on Broadway AND won the Tony for it, I found myself cringing when a high note was coming. It seemed like her voice was just shot. Maybe laryngitis? There was nothing left for any of the high notes. We sit on the 3rd row and a few times her face looked pained…like it was physically hurting her to sing some notes. The understudy came in for the second act and was FABULOUS! Once you got over the sudden change (the understudy is Asian with dark hair, very different from Alice Ripleys blond hair), it was great. Kudos for the understudy stepping in and keeping the show going. She did it confidently and like a professional. Don’t cancel your tickets if the understudy is going to perform – She’s great!

    I hope Ms. Ripley has time to get her voice well. She is an infinitely talented performer and we need her in the theater.

  110. bf says:

    Wow, what a very sad way to spend your time, picking apart this person who has given her all to this beautiful show and has changed countless lives through her performance as a result. All of those standing ovations many of you shrugged at are more than well-deserved.

    Oh, and to the person who referred to her as the “Talentless Miss Ripley,” congratulations on your ability to play with words, but you couldn’t sound more ignorant. Alice Ripley’s talents know no bounds. Spend five minutes learning more about her and you’ll find this out. The people on this thread should spend less time criticizing this brilliant, heartfelt, and dedicated performer and more time trying to contribute a percentage of the beauty that Alice has to the world. How easy it is to sit at home and criticize those who put themselves out there. What have you contributed lately besides all of this negativity?

  111. Mindy says:

    I have to agree with these comments. I went to Sat’s performance and cringed everytime she opened her mouth. I was also very impressed with the rest of the cast in that they were able to sing with her and still remain on key when she was so clearly off. I was going to leave, but I thought for sure they would have realized that she was having an off night and were going to replace her for the second act. Unfortunately, they did not replace her and I wish I would have left. I too have contacted the 5th Ave and have asked for a refund.

  112. B. Char says:

    Saw N2N with Alice Ripley in Seattle last night (Feb 27) at the 5th Avenue Theater, and was grateful when an understudy took over for the second act of the show, because Ripley’s flat vocals were a painful distraction to the degree my husband and I were unable to enjoy the show whenever she sang. It’s one thing to hit a bad note here and there, but she sang entire numbers off key. I assumed she was having a freak vocal emergency due to dire illness, but learning this has been going on since July of last year? As a season ticket holder, I am bewildered.

  113. Rebecca says:

    A friend went tonight (Feb 27) in Seattle and said she was replaced by the US for act two. Hopefully she will rest her voice. I saw it last thursday, and really thought she was the only weak part of the show.

  114. John says:

    When the entire supporting cast clearly outshines the lead actress there is something very wrong. Unfortunately, this was the case last night (Seattle – 5th Avenue Theater). Ms. Ripley leaves no doubt in her ability to command the stage. The problem lies, however, in her constant struggles with pitch and at times the basics of vocal technique. I have heard her perform the role on Broadway and the same problems were apparent there as well. Thankfully the supporting cast carried the evening and delivered a strong performance of Next To Normal that should not be missed by fans of Seattle theater.

  115. Shelly says:

    We saw this show for the second time last night in Seattle (saw it in NY a year ago). We “assumed” that Alice Ripley was ill when we saw her on Broadway and that was the explanation for the horrific performance. We were quite dismayed to learn that she was also playing this role again in Seattle but hoped for an improved performance. Last night was one of the most difficult musicals we’ve ever sat through. Audience members were leaving the theater during the show – no surprise. Comments around us were all the same – Alice Ripley was painful to listen to. Now that we are seeing all these online comments, my frustration is with the 5th Ave who was so obviously informed of the problems with Alice Ripley’s voice and still chooses to keep her on stage in spite of it. They should do the responsible thing and have the understudy take over the performances going forward. We are contacting the 5th Ave tomorrow to find out whether there is any recourse for putting us through such a punishing night when they knew better.

  116. Egan says:

    Just saw her performance in Seattle tonight (2/26/2011) and it’s not getting any better. I saw her on Broadway a year ago and she was in good form. I was just sad to not see Aaron Tveit in the role of Gabe. I’m sad to say tonight’s performance at the 5th was one of my most disappointment performances of a musical anywhere. The whole time you’re on the edge of your seat waiting for another bad not from Alice, and it was SO distracting. She’s brilliant in the original cast recording and when I saw her on Broadway, but it seems like she’s exceeded her expiration date by many, many months. Any director putting her on stage at this point should be ashamed. I don’t blame Alice herself – she’s just doing her job – the director should really pull her from the show until she’s able (if she is) to rise to the occasion. Just listened to the original Broadway Cast Performance immediately following the show to erase the cat dying/nails on chalkboard/completely distracting performance I just saw. Henry and Natalie were great, and the other definitely fulfilled their roles with talent…oh Alice, I hate to say it, but it’s time to take a (at least) temporary break. I have yet to hear a positive review of you in months, and it’s ruining your career. Take a vacation please! You have a very unique voice – don’t ruin it completely. So sad tonight, as this is one of my favorite musicals.

  117. Glenda Atchison says:

    I’ve been a season ticket holder to 5th Avenue Theatre in Seattle for 25 years. Alice Ripley’s vocal performance was a “Rip”-off. I sat in the front row & was SO distracted by her singing (if you could even call it that), that I could not enjoy the rest of the show as much as I should have. It was almost like a Saturday Night Live skit. As others have said, the other performers & band were great.

  118. Trish says:

    I saw the show 2-23-11 in Seattle. I was so excited to see the show and to see Alice Ripley. I am a director, theatre educator, and have a degree in vocal performance. I had heard through the grapevine that Alice Ripley was ill, but performing anyway. Well – after hearing her I knew that she couldn’t just be sick. I could understand some vocal strain from having swollen vocal chords, but not singing flat the entire show. Even with plugged ears, professional singers know where the pitches sit in the voice and body, and can stay at least mostly on pitch no matter how bad a cold or flu is. There is serious, serious damage there. The mispronunciation of her words is probably due to having to modify the vowels in order to get any vocal production at all. I was so sad for her, and for the audience. The people in front of us (about 8 or 9, and they weren’t all together) left at intermission. We had a very nice view after that, but I don’t think that’s what the producers intended. Alice’s acting was stellar, but she just can NOT continue to go on and sound the way she sounds. It was so difficult to listen to her sing so flat and with such strain. Oh, and by the way, I heard an usher telling patrons that she is “supposed to sound like that, it’s a character choice and that’s how the producers want her to sound.” I am very sure the ushers are being told to say that.
    HOWEVER – everyone should see the show anyway. The rest of the cast is steller (LOVED the Gabe, and the standby for Natalie was EXCELLENT), the story is fantastic, the writing incredible. Alice was exciting to watch when she wasn’t singing. It was worth it to me to see the rest of the show, even while being painful to hear her. (I actually left with an ache in my “singing muscles” – I think my body was trying to lift her pitch!)

  119. Renee says:

    I also saw the Seattle performance last night (2/25/11), and like the other person who was there, I almost jumped right out of my chair when I saw that Alice Ripley was in the touring production- I was so excited! What a terrible disappointment. I feel for her, and if she is reading these reviews I can only imagine how painful it must feel to receive so much criticism. But her voice is terribly damaged and her efforts to compensate only make it worse. Her acting performance was vivacious, quirky and wonderful. But her singing was inexcusable for a show at this level. As an audience, we expect a degree of quality for the price we pay to see a professional Broadway production. If Alice were an unknown and auditioned for a role singing the way she did last night, she’d be shut down immediately. The show’s producers need to do the ethical thing for both Alice and her audiences by asking her to take an extended leave to heal. The rest of the performance was solid and the other cast members sounded great. Unfortunately, because the Diana role is central in this show, nothing can make up for the strained, out of tune and unintelligible singing we hear last night from Alice Ripley.

  120. Anna says:

    I have never been more disappointed with a performer before. I saw N2N tonight in Seattle. I own the soundtrack and was thrilled when I heard that THE Alice Ripley would be performing. Sadly, she sang horribly flat the entire show and sang in the wrong key during “I Miss the Mountains” until the band became loud enough to help her back on track. Besides her obvious trouble singing in tune, she covers her tone mid-range, nearly swallowing the sound, making it incoherent and unplesant to listen to.
    I initially thought that she must be very sick or have some horrible ear infection, but after finding this (and other) site I realize this wasn’t a fluke. It was honestly the worst singing I have heard in a professional production and very painful to tolerate for the entire show.
    I hope she will take some time off to heal her voice.

  121. Cherrie says:

    I also saw the show in Seattle last night and left the theatre totally confused by what I heard in Alice Ripley’s performance. I won’t go on about what I heard because it’s all stated in the ocmments above. What I don’t understand is why this has been going on so long and why she is still in the cast. I’m sure there could be contractual ussues, but if it’s a case of the 5th Avenue (and the other theatres mentioned) knowing how bad she sounds, but keeping her for box office draw, they are making a BIG mistake. Most audience members are not going to go on line to research vocal problems of cast members. They instead are going to feel burned and think twice before buying a ticket next time because they paid a lot of money to hear a sub par performance.

    Secondly, I don’t understand how Ms. Ripley can continue to give such terrible performances. Where is her conscience? Does she really feel any fulfillment putting audiences and the other cast members through this? I was literally squirming in my seat. Don’t get me wrong. I Feel for her. It must be terrible if she was as great as they say she was at the beginning of the run of this show in NY. But, I find her comment above to be very arrogant. Yes, performers do owe their audeinces more than this. I hope Ms. Ripley does herself and future audience a favor and takes time for vocal rest and professional help.

  122. Lisa says:

    Saw the show in Seattle tonight, and I wholeheartedly agree-Ripley needs some time off. I enjoyed her when she was on stage and not singing, but her singing was very strange. She would go immediately to the “R” in any word, instead of holding the note on the vowel (like singers are wont to do) and most of her vowels sounded as if they were written with an umlaut. The rest of the cast was amazing, the band was wonderful (except for the poor guitarist who was strumming his heart out and you could hardly hear him) and I think the script and the usic is fantastic.

  123. FrogHollowNorthwest says:

    Wow – I thought I was the only one who cringed. I came out of this intense musical with the conclusion that this should be a play without music. Very important play – issues, great acting, but with singing? It was kind of like “Long Day’s Journey Into Night” put into song. Sorry – I left kind of weirded out. If Alice Ripley’s voice was intended to sound odd or disembodied to go with the role, it ws successful.

  124. Linda says:

    I am so glad to see the comments here – I saw the performance last night at the opening in Seattle and Alice Ripley’s voice was terrible: strained and flat and strange pronunciations of words. I cupped my hand around my ear to better understand what she was saying, but then the music was so loud it was unbearable. I couldm’t believe she was Broadway quality – very distracting. The other performers had wonderful voices…

  125. Jim in HaywardCA says:

    Well I just saw the show in SF. Based on reviews. I loved the show. Hated the star. Please! Did she have larengitis??? Lousy singer. Lousey actress. Everyone else what great! Even the replacement actor for the hubby! And of course we wanted to see the son naked. But the mom? She needs to get voice lessons and should NOT be allowed on stage until that bitch can sing!

  126. Stephanie says:

    My boyfriend and I saw the show Feb.19th in San Francisco and concur with all of the above. Alice Ripley’s voice was absolutely ridiculous….in the worst way possible. We sat in our chairs aghast, utterly confused as to how this woman got on stage in this role, much less won awards for it. It was painful…I cringed everytime she started up. I normally wouldn’t criticize a performer to this point, but she ought to know better. I felt sorry for her fellow performers, who other than the “daughter”, seemed to be doing a lackadaisical job at their performances…..for which I can’t blame them.
    We actually LEFT the performance at intermission because we couldn’t bear the thought of hearing her sing yet another song. Thankfully we got rush tickets so only wasted $60 rather than the close to $200 we could have spent for 2 seats had we bought at regular price. I have never left a show at intermission, and love musical theater. But this was just too much!

  127. Sue says:

    I went to the Feb. 17th performance in SF with two friends – we are all classically trained professional singers and were hoping to enjoy a Pulitzer Prize-winning show with a Tony winner as the star. Sounded promising… soon as the band started blaring and the cast started belting at full tilt we knew we were in for a wild ride. But Ms. Ripley’s sound was so disturbing – there’s a big ‘hole’ where her middle voice should be. She’s flat and you can’t understand a word. It sounds like it must be painful for her, and I was hoping her sub would come out for the second act and they’d say AR was ill. But no, she just keeps on singing – but it’s more of a howl. Not sure what she’s doing, but it’s just not good vocal technique. I thought one of my friends was going to jump out of his seat, it’s so hard to listen to anyone sing so poorly. She is doing such damage to her vocal mechanism – that is the biggest worry. Why doesn’t anyone tell her to stop and see a Dr…..and soon? How do her castmates, agent, etc let her keep doing this night after night? Where are her friends and what do they tell her? She may damage her voice permanently, if this has been going on as long as people say it has. It’s very sad for her. I wish I had heard her years ago when she had a voice.

  128. Ri says:

    II just left the SF show. I saw Marin in NY and was so excited to see the show again but Alice was so disappointing. The rest of the cast was fabulous! I thought she sounded sick too. I hope she recovers.

  129. Sibelius6 says:

    Saw the production on Feb 16 in San Francisco. It got a standing ovation, adding to my confusion over the terrible performance delivered by Alice Ripley. Things went from bad to ghastly from first to second acts. Not only did her singing eventually completely abandon any relationship to key, but (perhaps as a means to compensate), her enunciation became bizarre and strangled to the point that I wondered whether this was an intended part of the role; a free form musical implosion reflecting the mental collapse of her character. Only the performance got worse as her psychiatric condition improved. The horror! I was disappointed at missing at least a good performance of a central role in a greatly moving musical.

  130. Dominic says:

    I just saw the show with a friend tonight (2/16/11) in SF for my birthday, no less, and agree with everyone here: Ms. Ripley has such significant vocal damage, we were both holding our throats and wincing the whole time she sang. Look, even besides the fact that I am a proud member of Actors’ Equity and have a masters in music — ANYONE could tell that she simply can not and SHOULD not sing this or ANYTHING ELSE for a very long time while her voice can recover. In fact, she really should get some surgery done on what I’m certain are tons of vocal nodes before it’s too late and she has no ability to even phonate anymore. I love her (go look for her performances from Side Show on YouTube and see what an OUTSTANDING singer she used to be) so I speak out of worry and concern.

  131. Leslie says:

    Saw the show on Feb 16 and really loved it, but could barely understand anything Ms. Ripley sang. The rest of the cast had beautiful, crystal clear singing voices but every time Alice sang, I was struggling to understand her words. It was as if she were underwater or singing in a foreign language. Was her vocal part re-written to accommodate her damaged singing voice? I felt bad for her and agree with the previous comments….Let her understudy go on! I was so excited to see a Tony winning performance. This was an expensive play and it should be performed perfectly.

  132. Chris says:

    I saw the show in SF on 2/15/11. Ms. Ripley was so off pitch throughout it was painful. I was so disappointed. I can understand vocal fatigue, but Ms. Ripley was in a completely different key than the band and the rest of the cast. This appears to not be a new problem. I hold the musical director at least partially responsible for not correcting that ongoing problem.

  133. Bobbi says:

    I went to see the show this past Friday night, Feb 11th, in San Francisco and it really was painful to sit through. If it had been a movie I would have walked out. But because I paid $100, I sat through it. It was worse than nails on a chalk board. Her voice didn’t belong with the rest of the casts voices. And I couldn’t understand half of what she said. I wish she had left the cast before I wasted my time and money.

  134. Jamie says:

    I saw the Feb 2 show in San Francisco and Ms. Ripley was flat for most of the show and her voice deteriorated in the second half so much she could not hit any of the high notes. I had to listen to the soundtrack to hear what the songs were supposed to sound like. I went to see the show, not the performer, and would have been much happier to see the standby (assuming her voice was healthy). It’s too bad, overall I really enjoyed the show, but it got to be uncomfortable for me as an audience member every time she started to sing in the second half. The producers should know when to put the standby on.

  135. Jim says:

    I absolutely love Next to Normal. Saw it with Marin Mazzie and Jason this past November and it was awesome. However before, I ordered tickets to see it on tour too. After hearing the decline of Alice’s voice I am CROSSING my fingers that Pearl Sun will be on the role for Alice’s part. Which is too bad because Alice has a wonderful personality and humor. But I’m afraid of 2 hours of trying to mask what might be, a so-so performance.

  136. Jim Jones says:

    Awful awful awful. (San Francisco Feb 12th) Alice was fantastic as a dramatic actress, and her voice is clear and strong when speaking. But man, when she starts to sing it is near impossible to understand her and her notes are so flat and low. The rest of the cast was impeccable and carry the show, but Alice’s warbling ruined it for all of us. How can this go on and on?

  137. Carter Sanders says:

    Add both me and my wife to the list of people who feel Miss Ripley’s performance in this show was terrible. We attended the Feb 10th show at the Curran Theatre and her singing voice was basically unusable. I’ll be posting this link to facebook to warn off any of my friends who might get bilked into spending $92/seat for this sub-par performance.

  138. Laurel says:

    Saw the show in SF on Feb. 10, and I completely agree with comment #30. Alice’s singing was terrible. It wasn’t only that she couldn’t hit the high notes, she was painfully under pitch the entire time. I felt that the cast was having to adjust to her whenever they sang with her. It was almost like listening to atonal music at times. She clearly is a talented actress; I sure hope that she hasn’t permanently destroyed her voice.

  139. AJ says:

    I saw the show on Feb. 8 in SF and was shocked and dismayed by the sound of Alice Ripley’s voice. I could not believe she could win a Tony with that sound. I found her 2009 Tony performance on YouTube and her voice has clearly deteriorated to the point that she can no longer hit high notes and it is incomprehensible. I couldn’t understand her lyrics. I am appreciative for this report because the mainstream press seems to be ignoring this problem bc of Ms. Ripley’s reputation. I am going to write and ask for my money back.

  140. Peter Vilkin says:

    I see Miss Ripley has responded to the criticism of her failing voice (see comment #14). Miss Ripley, I was in your audience on Saturday night, and as a fellow singer and Equity member I have to tell you, you are unprofessional to continue performing with your voice in tatters. Not only that, you are assuredly doing permanent damage to your voice. Even if you’re not concerned for yourself, your audience deserves better. They are paying a lot to see the show, and you are off key, under the pitch for entire phrases, and often sound like a steer being slaughtered. It was the worst performance by a professional singer I have ever heard, and I have heard some bad ones. I’m certain your fellow cast members would appreciate it as well if they could have someone on pitch to harmonize with. Take the time you need to get vocally healthy again before it is too late.

  141. Stephanie says:

    We saw her in SF on the 5th and although her voice did have some of the problems (the strain, but didn’t sound off key to me) I thought she performed very well. I more take issue with the plot because I lived a very similar situation in my family and KNOW that psychiatrists are sadists. This show made the shrink not to be as evil as they are and even implied that the shock treatment and other damaging therapies (chemical and condescending talk therapy) helped. The overall message that if people deal with their demons head on they will heal I think is right on the money, howver. It’s hard, though, because in the case of sexual abuse (which I suspect is the number 1 cause of bipolar etc.) the whole family and American system of denial is really deep and can’t be made peace with in a short second act.

  142. Beth says:

    I am happy to see that someone else picked up Alice Ripley’s voice as sounding like she had an Irish accent. I saw the show last nite in S.F. and watched painfully, as Alice was flat in her pitch as well as sounding like she had an Irish brogue. In fact, I was curious to find out that she is very American.
    Everyone that saw it picked up the bad performance by Ms. Ripley but attributed it to voice strain. From reading the above comments, I am sure that she is not suffering from strain but from lack of musical talent. She did do an excellent job of portraying the role but they need to either replace her or have her lip sinc.

  143. SF Goer says:

    Just saw Alice Ripley in SF. The saga continues. People in my row were cringing as her voice deteriorated. It was hard for the other members of the cast to harmonize–they are professionals to not wince as we were. I don’t care if she won the Tony–we have ears and pay good money–the producers need to know to give her a rest so she can get back to top form.

  144. NATE says:


  145. Judy says:

    I echo Melanie. Thank God it’s not just me! Just saw N2N at the Balboa in San Diego, and all three of us felt that Ripley’s voice ruined this otherwise terrific show for us. We complained to each other during intermission, then ran into friends who felt the same way. She sounded like she either had a terrible cold (our first theory) or her voice was completely shot. Every time she opened her mouth to sing, I cringed. What a shame! I feel gypped after shelling out $120 per ticket for a show that was supposed to be so stellar. I really felt like asking for a refund when it was all over.

    The rest of the cast, especially the actor who played Gabe and the actress who played Natalie, were great.

    Ms. Ripley needs to step aside and let someone else take over this role. She’s not doing the show any favors.

  146. Melanie says:

    Oh, thank God it’s not just me. I left the theater totally confused after I saw the show last Thursday at the Balboa Theater in San Diego.
    I talked to a friend who saw the show on Broadway and she explained to me the “Good Alice” vs. “Bad Alice” phenomenon. She apparently saw Good Alice (my friend is a wonderful singer, so I trust her judgement), but she knows people who saw “Bad Alice” and she has heard reports similar to mine. I guess whoever decided to give her a Tony got Good Alice. I ended up downloading one of the songs from the cast recording just out of curiosity (assuming that would be a recording of Good Alice) and she was GREAT! So, apparently, she has either done significant damage to her voice since she started the tour, or she’s just incredibly inconsistent.
    I must say though, that she acted the snot out of the role and if she had sung it even reasonably well, it would’ve been an incredible performance. I hope that she chooses to give herself a break at some point. I think she clearly needs it. It would be really tragic if she permanently damaged her voice and/or her reputation.

  147. denverandy says:

    Saw N2N yesterday in Denver, great cast, the understudy for Dan was excellent. Went with a large group from the my chorus; we all noticed the strain on Ms. Ripley’s voice. As a seasoned (amateur) vocal performer I found her problems distracting at times, but her acting and timing were excellent. My partner (not vocally trained) thought her voice was on purpose due to her role. In any case, I hope she can get some rest and her voice gets back into shape. I am exhausted, mentally and vocally, after a weekend of 3 concerts; the endurance of the professional performer is amazing to me.

    Good Luck Ms. Ripley!

  148. Denver says:

    We just got back from N2N in Denver. What an amazing show thanks to the other very talented singers and I thoroughly was touched by the story. We were not familiar with Ms. Ripley, and we were very confused at her very different and strange voice and the fact that she won a Tony for her role. It is too bad if she is having voice fatigue and just needs a break. I wish she would do that for herself, because I would have enjoyed the musical even more with a more stunning lead actor with a strong voice (loved Emma Hunton who played the Natalie- she was incredible- beautiful, strong voice)

  149. Brooklyn says:

    Has anyone else noticed that Alice commented on this? I find it very amusing, haha.

  150. Doctor says:

    I concur with all of the above…I was so saddened by her perforamnce- having known her stirring voice from Sideshow- During intermission i thuoght “Well, she must be so ill; maybe her understudy will go on…” I think her lack of vocalism diminshes the power of the show- it’s as if the other actors- all glorious singers- are behaving cautiously around her on stage.

    I spent time watching YouTube videos of her singing the material in N2N after seeing the show in md-December. It seems that singing eight perforamnces a week has taken its toll on her voice. She needs to rest and rehabilitate her vocie before permanent damge is done.

  151. Catherine McClenahan says:

    I saw the show on Tuesday night and I could not believe the hype and accolades showered upon Ms. Ripley. I could not believe she was even cast in the role. Her voice was bad. I (and the 4 people I was with) couldn’t understand most of the words she was singing and her strangled voice seemed to be coming from somewhere in the middle of her torso. It was painful to listen to and I kept wanting to see another actress in the role. Her acting was lovely but as this is a musical with “way too much singing” according to my 16 year old daughter, you need to have the chops to be there. Sadly Ms. Ripley did not.

  152. Dan says:

    Saw the show last night, and she sounded HORRIBLE. I mean TERRIBLE. You couldn’t understand a word she said, and just kept moaning her way through the lyrics. I felt the same as the critic. “We gave this woman a tony???!?!?!?” It was horribly distracting. She had NO business on stage. I feel sorry for the people paying full price to see this performance, because it was painful to listen to.

  153. stefanie says:

    I almost saw this show with Marin Mazzie while I was in New York and I regret it big time. I saw the show tonight- had such high hopes for the tony award winning Ripley…..but myself (as well as many around me) were very dissapointed with her voice. The other performers were amazing just making it all the more obvious how bad she was. Her acting was great…it was a relief when she would speak or sing with others which would drown out her voice to a tolerant level…. I tried my best to imagine her voice replaced by a pleasant one that didn’t remind me of a dying cat……….it’s too bad. the musical’s great and deserves a great lead singer.

  154. Debbi says:

    I saw her performance on December 26th in LA and I have to concur. Her acting was amazing, but her voice was awful. It had a bizarre, strained quality and she was frequently flat. I was in the orchestra and by the end of the performance, she just mouthed the words or turned her mic off when the ensemble sang in the closing number. Surely, she knows how she sounds. How can she continue to perform? The rest of the cast is wonderful, though.

  155. sarabeth says:

    I have to agree with what everyone has said about Ripley’s performance in LA. I attended the Dec. 19th matinee and “distracted” is the perfect word. As the show progressed, she became more and more off-key and the prononciation was unlike any I have heard (outside of the character/actor being foreign. In a short chat with other theater-go-ers, one man thought she was doing it on purpose to play up the crazy…makes sense, but…..I thought everyone else was fantastic, but Alice made it unpleasant.


  157. shel says:

    My daughter and I saw her Dec 19 in LA. Throughout the whole show we thought Alice Ripley had a cold. At end of performance we asked an usher if he’d seen the show before. He said, several times. I asked if she was sick. He paused for a few seconds, said no, that’s the way she always sounds. The rest of the cast is great and the music is definitely award-winning. Too bad there can’t be some kind of a disclaimer at the beginning of the show warning her voice is not up to par. Other than her voice, it’s a great show. The other performers are wonderful, especially the daughter. Just know the downside going in.

  158. matt says:

    Althought if you have a beautiful girlfriend who takes you to the theater, you have no reason to complain. I still had an amazing night despite the Talentless Mrs. Ripley. Thanks baby!

  159. matt says:

    I just went to see this with my girfriend on Friday, Dec 17th. Alice Ripley was AWFUL. We thought it was a cold or laryngitis but after reading the review I realize her voice is shot permanently or she is just a horrendous singer. Please DONT WASTE YOUR MONEY. It is despicable that they basically sell this play on her Tony Award winning performance and she is by far the weakes link of an otherwise forgettable and predictable musical. Please tell all your friends to stay away.

  160. HK says:

    I just saw the show tonight… and Alice Ripley was just plain bad. If you are planning to go see this show be sure to go on a night when the understudy is performing. For any audience member with good pitch her performance will make for 2 hours of nails on a chalkboard. Sadly for them, the rest of the performers were incredible. I bet there is whole lot of tension on a set where the star is a detriment to the show.

    I’m just happy I’m not crazy for thinking her performance wasn’t worthy of any recognition but negative recognition.

  161. Heidi says:

    Wholeheartedly agree-just saw it last night as well. Alice Ripley’s voice was distracting to the point of anger. I sat in awe that a professional musical performer even got to that point of disarray with her voice, let alone is starring at the Ahmanson with it. Could this seriously be going unchecked? I like that idea of a commenter earlier, to check for a performance with her understudy-because the play itself, the music, the performances, and the other actors, really are astounding.

  162. Ethan says:

    My wife and I caught the show in LA on Tues night in celebration of her birthday. While we enjoyed the plot and the music, we were very distracted by Ripley’s simply awful performance. Danielle’s comments matched my impression. Ripley was hoarse, off-key, quieter than the other actors, and on top of that, frequently seemed to be singing in an Irish accent, which made it even harder to make out the words. The strange thing is that her speaking voice seemed to be fine. But whenever she would sing, it was if she suddenly had a cold.

    I half-expected them to stop in the middle of one of the first few songs, apologize, and start again. I was shocked that they didn’t have her understudy go on in her place, and felt like asking for a refund. But from the other comments, it appears that this problem has been going on for several months. Amazing that they could get away with it this whole time! And I was equally surprised that other audience members didn’t seem to be upset. It certainly didn’t seem that way from the standing ovation at the end of the show!

  163. Wayne says:

    I just saw the show in LA tonight, and I have to agree. Poor Ms. Ripley’s voice is seriously in trouble. I was looking up reviews on the show at intermission to see how it was possible that that voice (not the performance, but the voice) could win a Best Actress Tony, because her singing was clearly inferior to the other actors on stage. It took a LOT away from the show. I hope she takes a long break soon and lets her voice recover!!

  164. Joe says:

    I’m sorry to hear that Alice Ripley is having the same problems in L.A. that she had in her final months in New York. I hope she hasn’t done permanent damage to her voice.
    I’m thinking about catching the show again in New York before it closes next month. I’ve heard that replacement Marin Mazzie is doing a terrific job in the part and I would like to see the show without the distraction of a leading lady in vocal distress.

  165. Danielle says:

    Just saw the show in L.A., Ripley ruined it for me. Appears to be an exceptional actress and is certainly a lovely woman, but her voice sounded like a braying donkey affecting an Irish brogue (no joke).

    The rest of the cast was exceptional and the material is so interesting that I’m considering calling the venue to ask if there are any scheduled performances when her understudy will be filling in, just so I can go back and see it again.

  166. Jaybeedee says:

    I am very glad to read another person identifying fault with Alice Ripley’s performance. I heard her in Los Angeles on Friday Nov 26, and she was just terrible. Very frequently she was missing notes, either coming in a quarter tone flat or fluffing them altogether. During one solo during the second act, she lost an entire section as she struggled to sing through it. I too couldn’t tell if she just needed to take the day off and let her understudy take over, or if she’s been robbing audiences for a while.

    With folks hearing the same problems in July, September, and now November, I think that she needs to retire from the role. I realize her name is a draw, but there are many talented singers out there who can pick up the pieces and deliver a great show. All the other cast members had gorgeous, full voices.

  167. Franklyn says:

    I agree – I saw this in July. Alice Ripley is an amazing actor, simply AMAZING. But her voice must just have been tired out by this crazy musical. I hope she recovers!

  168. Joe says:

    Thanks for the comment, Chris. Again, I am a longtime fan of Alice Ripley’s but her performance just didn’t work for me on Sunday.

  169. Chris says:

    I had never seen this show, but happened to be at the same matinee as the author. While I agree there were times I strained to understand the words, I chalk that up to “live show”…but Alice’s voice seemed pretty good to me!