BWW Review: ORDINARY DAYS Extraordinarily Surprises at the Cameri Caffe Theatre
It's been over a year since the Israeli production of the Off-Broadway musical Ordinary Days, directed by Eidan Lipper, premiered at the Cameri Caffe Theatre in Tel Aviv. A humble New York City setting, four actors and a pianist brilliantly bring Adam Gwon's touching story and beautiful music to this small theatre.
Like many other stories set in New York, Ordinary Days also tells about different storylines that intertwine in one way or another.
We first meet a cheerful guy named Warren as he tries to hand out fliers to passersby. One of the people who actually stop to take a flier is grad student Deb, which causes her to lose a notebook containing her thesis notes. Once Warren finds her notebook and Deb meets him in order to get it back we get to see how their encounter changes the lives of them and two other New Yorkers, Claire and Jason, a young couple who is moving in together.
All four cast members are graduates of Hamaslul Musical Theatre Academy in Tel Aviv, which is led by the musical's director Eidan Lipper.
Ben Naftaly superbly plays Warren while with each and every word that he sings with a delightful voice he brings deepness and great meaning to the powerful messages his character delivers. Joining him in this storyline as Deb is the remarkable Shani Shauli with her exquisite singing, perfect comic timing and contagious energy. Both Naftaly and Shauli mesmerize with their song interpretation skills and make one wish to see more scenes of them.
Playing Claire, Naama Nachum adds a graceful tone to the musical and though at times she seems a bit troubled, which distances her from her role, she shows confidence while singing and her rendition of the song I'll Be Here leaves the audience very emotional with the moving way she tells the new and unexpected information given about Claire's past in it. The fourth member of this very bonded cast is Shahaf Ifhar who plays Jason. While Ifhar lacks his character's passion and seems indifferent to the story, and though his voice is deep and low which may not suit Jason's part very well, when his songs reach higher notes it seems as if the effort required from him for such a task manages to pause his detachment and bring him into the musical.
Both Lipper and Ifhar took on two roles in this production as they also co-translated the musical to Hebrew. Despite the fact that many words and lines in the original musical were unnecessarily changed in translation it can't be said that they were lost because the lyrics feel natural in a way that keeps the musical flowing and whole. Also, the lyrics remained meaningful which is especially important in this musical with its deep and inspiring messages. Adding to the flowing feeling in this heartwarming production is the music passionately created by the accompanying pianist and musical director Arnon Ziv.
Although the small Cameri Caffe Theatre provides an intimate ambiance fitting for such a musical, out of all the many theatres the Cameri has to offer there's no doubt this terrific production deserves a bigger house. Thankfully, with the direction of Eidan Lipper a New York subway station sign, a park bench and a metal stage ladder that resembles a fire escape stairway are all that is needed in order to bring the sizzling feeling of New York to this compact theatre. Given the city's theme in this show, which is also very eminent not only in Gwon's lyrics but also his music, it might be confusing to why such a musical should interest an Israeli audience but the combination between the great messages of this story along with the talented cast and completing translation surely charms each of the audience members in a way that all they see is a relatable, humorous and moving creation.
That being the case, it's a good thing an additional performance date was announced for this production because just as is said in this beautiful musical: "For beautiful to happen the beautiful has got to be seen".
Further information about upcoming dates can be found at the Cameri Theatre website.
Photo Credit: Tom Aviram.