Nothing ‘Normal’ about Middletown star’s rise to fame


Germain Lussier Times Herald Record

He has played the same roles as Zac Efron, Taye Diggs and, soon, Leonardo DiCaprio. Thanks to his latest production, though, actors might one day say they played the same role as Middletown’s Aaron Tveit.

A 2001 Middletown High School graduate, Tveit is one of the leads in the Broadway musical “Next to Normal,” which opened April 15 to stellar reviews. It’s about how a mother’s mental disorder affects her family.

Tveit plays Gabriel, her son, and the New York Times described his performance as “both angel and demon to his mother “¦ contrastingly (and necessarily) as charismatic and ineffable as a figure in a dream.”

These accolades might not have occurred at all. At Middletown High, Tveit was involved in sports and drama. Things might have turned out very different had Middletown not been such an open-minded place.

“If I had to make that choice, at that time in my life, I would not have done drama. I would have done sports,” Tveit said. “That, specifically, was a huge thing. It kind of let me find out what I was interested in without forcing me to make a decision.”

Through two semesters at Ithaca College, Tveit still hadn’t decided on a career path. He switched majors from music to drama, which stuck when he was cast in a touring production of “Rent.” That lead to a spot as Link on a touring production of “Hairspray,” then onto Broadway in the same role.

“I ended up not going back to school,” Tveit said. “I kind of got [to New York City] and I’ve been … knock on wood … consistently working since.”

Another major role: Fiyero in the smash hit “Wicked.” The producer of that show also was working on another original musical, which would eventually become “Next to Normal.”

Tveit first auditioned for a reading of the show two years ago and didn’t win a part until several months later, but the show was always on his radar.

“Even as I was doing other things, these songs were in the back of my head and I’d only heard two of them,” Tveit said. “It just kind of stayed with me.”

“Next to Normal’s” road to Broadway has been all about staying power. After gestating for several years in various forms, it opened off-Broadway in 2008 and met with mixed reviews.

The producers and actors believed the show had more potential, so a heavily tweaked version opened in Washington in late 2008 -— according to Tveit, upwards of seven songs were completely changed. There, the production began to blossom. It reopened in New York and Tveit won a prestigious Helen Hayes Award.

“It’s such an off-the-wall topic that I think we really used that whole first production to find out what the show was,” Tveit said.

And unlike playing characters others had created, Tveit was able to mold this character.

“This is what you dream of: To have your imprint on something and to have the close work with the director and the writers,” he said. “Over the last year and a half my character and I have kind of met in the middle.”

Tveit will perform in the show until early June, when he takes a leave of absence to star as Frank Abagnale Jr. in a musical adaptation of the Steven Spielberg film “Catch Me If You Can” in Seattle.

And regardless of whether that show is a success, he’s scheduled to return to “Next to Normal” in September, finishing out the year.

After that, Tveit doesn’t know where the road leads. He recently branched into TV and film with a role on the CW’s “Gossip Girl,” in the Ricky Gervais film “Ghost Town” and in a new movie called “Howl” about Allen Ginsberg.

“In an ideal world for me, I would like to go back and forth [between film and theater],” he said. “I kind of want to do it all.”