Photos by Brett Beiner
Director William Osetek has his work cut out for him with Next to Normal, Drury Lane’s new musical production. A rock opera dealing with mental health issues, Next to Normal asks a lot of the artists who choose to breath life into it. Vocally challenging and emotionally fierce, the musical is gut-wrenching in its honesty and compelling in its urgency. Our Town spoke with Osetek who also serves at the company's Artistic Director about his approach and how the show challenged him.
Our Town How would you describe your style as a director?
William Osetek Very difficult to answer... I would say foremost, I consider myself a story teller. My ultimate mission is always to honor the characters and the story they have to tell.
OT To direct is it necessary to find a connection point with each character? If you don’t relate to a character how does it affect the show?
WO I don't think it is as important that I have a point of connection with the characters as that I understand them and why they make the choices they make. I am fascinated with figuring out the character's drive and why they do what they do- good or bad/ right or wrong.
OT Why did you choose Next to Normal?
WO Many reasons, including the fact that it won the Pulitzer Prize (only 8 musicals in history have done this). It's original score--how often do we encounter a new body of work with such an amazing score that is not a juke box musical? And because of the incredible story.
OT The show combines powerful rock style songs with a serious family drama. Not your standard musical. How did the show’s style influence your direction choices?
WO The show's style influenced many choices- from the actors to best represent these characters (and their vocal abilities) as well as the designers who were hired whose particular abilities would best bring this challenging piece to life.
OT What unique challenges does a rock musical present?
WO The biggest challenges have to do with mastering the sound quality as well as finding vocalists who could conquer the nearly impossible vocal gymnastics required to accomplish it.
OT How did your lead protect her voice?
WO When she's off stage, she rarely speaks out loud in an effort to preserve it.
OT What sort of research did you do into electro-shock therapy and psychiatry?
WO Of course there was extensive Internet research (there are YouTube videos demonstrating the procedure). In addition, we had a specialist come to our rehearsals, advising the cast and watching run-throughs to insure we were being accurate.
OT Is there one song in the show you feel represents the show’s overall theme or purpose?
WO The title song "Maybe" also known as "Next to Normal" I think best epitomizes Diana's problem.
OT What were the emotional ramifications of working with such heavy subject matter? Did it get easier or harder as time went on and the performances grew stronger?
WO Time heals everything- with repetition it certainly became easier to live in the tumultuous center of this material.
OT Are there any particular moments in the show that get you each time you watch?
WO Too many to list. I'm very proud of the production we have created. I've said many times that when you combine an incredible cast with amazing material, it is almost always a recipe for success.
"Next to Normal" runs through October 6th. Purchase tickets here.
A writer with an MFA in Creative Writing from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Sarah Terez Rosenblum freelances for sites like Pop Matters and
afterellen.com Her debut novel, “Herself When She’s Missing," was called “poetic and heartrending” by ALA Booklist. Sarah is also a figure model, Spinning instructor and teacher at Chicago’s StoryStudio. Inevitably one day she will find herself lecturing naked on a spinning bike. She's kind of looking forward to it actually.
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