Happiness and its dysfunctional and often hilarious pursuit is the theme of a new comic musical premiering at the University of Wyoming this fall.

“Rainy Day People,” composed, written, directed, and music directed by celebrated UW alumnus Sean Stone (“Good Morning, Athens”), kicks off the Department of Theatre and Dance’s 2011-2012 production season Sept. 28 through Oct. 1 at 7:30 p.m. and Oct. 2 at 2 p.m. on the Fine Arts Main Stage.

Tickets cost $14 for the public, $11 for senior citizens and $7 for students. For tickets and information call (307) 766-6666 or go online at www.uwyo.edu/finearts.

Based on an award-winning play by UW alumnus Todd McCullough, “Rainy Day People” is a musical about people who wish that they were happy, but are content only when they are making themselves or others miserable.

Stone auditioned for McCollough’s wistful comedy when it was first produced at UW in 2002, and even though he didn’t get cast, he was taken with the piece.  So when he was required to adapt a work for his  graduate thesis at NYU, the choice was obvious.

“I loved Todd’s piece the first time I saw it.  There were so many really great characters and unanswered questions about them that I wanted explore further,” said Stone.

McCullough’s play in turn was inspired by Dostoyevsky’s “Notes From the Underground,” a novella detailing a love affair between an emotionally stunted government employee and a prostitute.

Stone’s musical expands on the original play to explore parallels between modern America and Dostoyevsky’s Russia: an overbearing government and culture, a significant class divide, a sense of helplessness among people, and a disconnect between individuals and the consequences of their actions.

The musical examines how this environment this leads to “rainy day people” who set their own world into chaos because they do not know how to engage fully in their own lives.  The music supports the theme and features bright, fun, catchy pop tunes that belie the characters’ jaded view of the world.

“Why is it as a society that we perceive ourselves to be largely unhappy, while societies that are much worse off economically and politically seem to have their heads wrapped around how to be happy in their day-to-day lives?” asked Stone.

“We work from home, we have relationships via Facebook and other social media, and we can go through the day without ever talking to a real human being.  We’re disconnected, and when we isolate ourselves, it’s really hard to invest in the world around us, and that in turn feeds into our general dissatisfaction,” he added.

Stone notes that as dark a comedy as “Rainy Day People” is, it is ultimately a hopeful show, because it’s about people learning to identify and pursue healthy wants and needs and become their whole and best selves.

“I’m really an optimist.  I think everybody can be a superstar, but that you just have to seize it.  You just have to figure out who you are and what you want out of life, and realize that you are worth the investment,” said Stone.

“That’s the major arc of the piece, to learn to be connected and in a state of readiness for whatever happens.  Whatever life brings to us, we have to be willing participants in our own lives.”