BWW Review: ORDINARY DAYS A Heartfelt Return to Baxter Theatre Centre
Immersive as a musical escape from everyday life while also shimmering with an unpretentious approach to modern-day society, ORDINARY DAYS at the Baxter Flipside puts the worries and ideals we politely hide to others and ourselves on display through harmony.
The Off-Broadway musical first premiered in 2008 and is returning after its premiere at the Baxter in February. Opening on the illusion of a typically busy Manhattan street scene, varying levels of internal and external conflicts are explored throughout this sung-through production as two men and two women navigate their way through New York. What is seemingly ordinary in these four people's lives is made extraordinary by their determination, honesty and spirit.
ORDINARY DAYS was written by Adam Gwon and contains the classic makings of a 21st century musical. Think THE LAST FIVE YEARS style of song with RENT-esque group numbers and solos reminiscent of GHOST THE MUSICAL. Some songs were more memorable than others with the entire 21-song soundtrack forming a simplistic, melodic look into tensions surrounding the ideals we hold in life. The storyline is refreshing - and one with aspects many audience members can relate to or take away from. What would have made this production even more special, however, is to transport it to a South African setting (if copyright wasn't a thing). This of course would have to allow for multiple artistic liberties to be taken but something that - if done well - could be a real hit.
The four characters singing their way through New York City are couple Claire (Kirsten Murphy Rossiter) and Jason (Kenneth Meyer), lovable oddball Warren (Logan Timbre) and his platonic counterpart Deb (Josie Piers). Rossiter and Meyer are the believable cliché of a lukewarm couple that's run their course. Meyer shines brightest in his heartfelt solos whereas Rossiter's characterization is slightly stronger than her vocal skills. Both could benefit from more delicacy in their higher range, but nonetheless confidently take on Gwon's compositions.
Timbre and Piers' pieces are a bit more lighthearted and fun. The entire book has a charming humor to it but both characters bring a cheer to the otherwise realistic fatalism of ORDINARY DAYS. Timbre is bright and chipper - matched by his tenor - and Piers is sarcastically comical. Both bring a spark to their scenes together and it will be great to see these two collaborating again in productions to come.
Byron Bure as director of ORDINARY DAYS is an up-and-comer in the production space with an academy of theatre arts already behind his name. A performer himself, he has done well to understand how to use his space effectively and make a minimal setting seem captivating. The New York skyline as well as minor details in prop choices adds the necessary allure to this sort of show. Lighting, too, lifts up the ambience.
ORDINARY DAYS is a charming take on the banality of everyday life with a talented cast and crew behind it. With small takeaways in song or little motivational flyers, the genuine honesty in this production is an ideal heart-warmer to start off winter.
Photo credit: Daniel Rutland Manners
ORDINARY DAYS runs at the Baxter Flipside for one week only until 25 May, at 8pm nightly and a matinee on 25 May at 4pm. Ticket prices are R120 (Tuesday, Wednesday and the matinee) and R150 (Thursday to Saturday). Booking is now open at Webtickets on 086 111 0005, online at www.webtickets.co.za or from selected Pick n Pay stores.