USC student Tyler Quehl recently wrote and composed the musical, "The Restaurant: Millennial Commentary on Middle America." Produced through the student organization Off Off Broadway, the show is a sociopolitical commentary on the current times.
The second-year international business and marketing student began his involvement with theater in the sixth grade, and joined Off Off Broadway his second semester of his first year at USC. The organization describes itself as a musical theater organization consisting of students, faculty and staff members.
According to its Garnet Gate web page, "Off Off Broadway was founded by non-theater majors and lovers of musical theatre and performance, believing that even those not pursuing an acting career should be able to participate in theatre during their college experience."
However, Quehl started music composition before he began theater. In high school, he and a group of friends planned to create a video game parody of their school, and Quehl composed its music.
"It never really came to fruition, the game itself, but I made a concept album for that," he said.
Now, Quehl has combined his love for composing music with writing through Off Off Broadway, where he decided to pursue writing a musical. This social commentary type of musical had never been done before by Off Off Broadway, and after his peers seemed receptive to the idea, Quehl decided to run with it.
"I wanted to do a political satire, and that gradually turned into more of a commentary," Quehl said. "I didn't really want to do another criticism, I wanted to do more of a examination and let people just think about what they see."
Quehl also composed the music for the production. He experimented with different ideas, and framed scenes around songs. His inspiration was drawn from various writers and artists, including non-musical theater artists.
"When I was writing this show a lot of my inspiration came from Johnathan Larson, who wrote Rent ... but Lin Manuel Miranda, I really like his musical, 'In the Heights' and I like 'Hamilton,'" Quehl said. "But also when I was writing my music, I took a lot of inspiration from non musical theater artists."
He researched some experimental and non-conventional styles, he said, and gathered inspiration from that. Quehl said his favorite style of music is classical, usually preferring it over more popular tunes.
“I think having a goal ... forces you to write. It forced me to write all this music, and I learned so much out of it that ultimately, I wouldn’t have learned if I just stuck to music composition, I wouldn’t have learned all the stuff I learned doing a musical," Quehl said.
He credited the university for offering a theater to house their plays and Student Government for offering funding for Off Off Broadway’s shows.
"USC is fantastic for doing something like this," Quehl said. "It's easy to find an organization that fits you."
Now that his musical has been produced, Quehl is considering doing a project with his roommate who's also a musician. Though he's at USC to pursue business, he hopes to keep music and theater in his life long after graduation.
"The Restaurant: Millennial Commentary on Middle America" ran Nov. 15-18 at the Benson Theatre.
"I would like to see if there's a fusion there I could pursue, maybe work on the business side of Broadway."