Ordinary Days is a new production of the musical written by Adam Gwon and first produced and performed at Penn State University. It has a slight storyline, about four paths that cross in New York City, and a minimal set, but the talent of the cast and the quality of the music has a very strong impact.
There are essentially two plot lines, which weave around each other and finally meet in the middle. The first centres on Deb who has mislaid her note book containing ultra-important thesis research, which has been found by dreamer Warren, who spends his time distributing flyers on behalf of an artist who is in jail. These two meet up, so that Warren can hand back the book, and they have a less than auspicious first meeting at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Deb gets lost and gets more and more het up and irritable towards her good samaritan – hardly in the right frame of mind for the friendship that lost soul Warren has in mind.
The second plot is around the new couple Jason and Claire who are on the verge of making a real commitment to each other, with Claire having a wobble for reasons we hear about near the end. They also have a parallel afternoon at the Met, which highlights the unsatisfying nature of their love affair. They do not wish to look at the same type of art, they are annoyed at each other, her misgivings are obvious. Jason is aware that she is not fully happy, despite his wishing that she were, and sings the lovely song Favourite Places. Then they have a really bad night out going to a friend’s for dinner. Jason and Claire’s song together Fine (in the sarcastic meaning rather than the positive one) is funny and done really well.
It’s not the first story about ordinary people finding themselves lost in a big city, but it doesn’t matter. It rings true and, not only is it very entertaining, but it is also quite enchanting. The actors are all good and either have nice voices or great voices. Nora Perone, who plays Deb and also produces and is artistic director for production company Streetlights, People!, also has a strong comedy element and made me laugh out loud a couple of times. I found it a little slow to begin – Warren’s opening song could have been bigger – and I also found that the styling of Jason is wrong somehow, as he comes across as gay before you find out his storyline – but Jason comes into his own and delivers the affecting songs The Space Between and Favourite Places. Kirby Hughes, playing Claire, has a really strong and melodic voice and she has a few solo songs which really impressed me, including Let Things Go and I’ll Be Here.
Also out there, downstage, is musical director Rowland Braché, whose keyboard is the only accompaniment to the fully sung show. With this small, well-cast ensemble, it really is a matter of simple is best.
Towards the end we finally get a look at the flyers that Warren has been handing out, in fact throwing off a rooftop in an ecstatic moment. They are inspirational, sometimes sentimental quotes about how to be happy and about taking the right direction in life. A few fell on my lap and I brought one home with me (I wasn’t the only flyer-thief!): “Never let tall buildings block the view of your dreams” in any other context might sound trite, but the whole evening and its sweet joyfulness about the ordinary life of us mere humans really touched me. Ordinary Days runs until 17th June and I think you might like it too.
hattydaze rating: ****/*****
I attended Ordinary Days thanks to a press ticket. It plays at the London Theatre Workshop until 17th June 2017. Ticket details here.