MTR to reveal they are ‘Next to Normal’

Musical Theatre Repertory brings the Tony-award winning musical to USC.

Manic-depressive. Bipolar. Delusional. This bundle of diagnoses is placed on the shoulders of one suburban housewife and her family in the rock musical "Next to Normal," with book and lyrics by Brian Yorkey and music by Tom Kitt. Under the direction of Sean Soper and music direction of Sasha Bartol, USC Musical Theatre Repertory (MTR), will tackle this harrowing musical about coping with loss and grief.

Soper shares what makes this show unique, its takeaways, and what sitting in the director's chair has taught him.

How does this musical differ from other musicals people may have seen?One of my favorite elements of the show is the score. The creators were so smart to use the score as a device for portraying Diana's illness and her arc throughout the story. The blend of rock, country, folk, punk, and traditional musical theatre makes this musical different than anything anybody has seen before.

This shows asks some very thought provoking questions about what it means to be alive. What do you hope people will take away from this show?
I hope people walk away from the show with a similar understanding that the characters come to—that life is full of highs and lows, but we still find a way to survive and thrive within that reality. Having a life that is all highs or all lows is unattainable. Being alive means there will be rainy and sunny days, and that's okay. This concept has inspired my vision for the show, and is what the cast, creative team and I have been working towards in bringing this beautiful musical to life.

What has working on this production taught you as a director?
I've learned so much about the creative process by working on this show. I encourage everyone interested in directing to take a directing class like I did, and to try to get involved with any of the many student organizations on campus that produce shows, especially MTR. Having my own creative liberty to mold a piece of art into what I have conceived it to be has been an incredible learning experience, and I can't thank MTR enough for providing that to me.

What has working on this production taught you about yourself?
This experience has taught me to be patient with myself and others, as well as how to steer others into the right direction without outright saying what I want. This method produces the most collaborative outcomes, and ultimately makes for a better performance for the actor. I can't wait to present this show to the entire USC community because it's so important, and it handles difficult situations that we all face in such a heart-wrenching and beautiful way!

"Next to Normal" will be playing September 14th-17th in the Massman Theatre. There is a recommended $5 donation at the door. For updates on tickets and shows, visit

Contact Theatre & Dance Editor Julia Stier here or follow her on Twitter