BWW Review: ORDINARY DAYS MUSICAL IS EXTRAORDINARY at Stageworks Theatre
Sometimes a little show comes along that doesn't have an ornate backdrop or even a title that you are familiar with, and in 85 minutes, it steals your heart and sweeps you away into the everyday intersecting lives of four Manhattanites. A simple, perfect set, complemented by an extraordinary pianist, and striking visual projections create the background to Adam Gwon's Ordinary Days, under the skillful direction of Karla Hartley.
The musical tells the story of two couples, one romantically linked, the other, by accident and sheer necessity. We meet Claire (Heather Krueger) and Jason (Tron Montgomery) at the pinnacle of any relationship - moving in together. We journey with the couple from their attempt to merge two households, celebrating their couplehood, to feeling alone together, to the picking fights, and the uncoupling, to the gut-punching, heartbreaking reason why it is such a lopsided relationship. I heard other people sniffling, so I know I was not the only one caught off-guard.
Strong lyrics capture the frustration often found in nitpicky little events that dissolve a relationship. "I'll bring the red, you bring the white, I'll still be drunk, you'll still be right," Jason says to Claire.
We find Deb (Alison Burns) having lost her book of notes and Warren (Ricky Cona), at a point of frustration in handing out flyers, ignored by passerby, finding her missing research. We see an odd relationship develop between two strangers who unknowingly share more than a notebook.
"Can I buy you a coffee?" Deb reluctantly feels she should thank Warren. "You're gay, right?"
Warren flashes his colorful tennis shoes, and the audience dissolves into laughter.
We watch an unexpected friendship blossom. During a pivotal moment that brings all four couples together, we see that despite being wary and standoffish in the beginning, Deb has warmed to Warren and already had a special connection to him that neither is aware.
Tron's line of dialogue as Jason summarizes the entire play, "You don't want to do New York on your own."
In my notes, I wrote, "Tron boyfriend smile, hug in his voice." I think I meant that take Jason as a hopeless romantic, and pair it with Tron's megawatt smile and outstanding vocal ability, and you get a voice that makes you happy, like a warm hug. "I haven't found a way inside her heart" from 'Favorite Places' makes your heart break for him, not understanding why his girlfriend keeps him at arm's width.
Heather is a powerhouse vocalist. Some of the notes she hit, I simply wrote, "wow!" When she sorts through her belongings then refuses to throw anything away, we wonder what the significance is of the items she's saved. Her nuanced performance allows you to feel the pain beneath the smile. I never saw the reason coming, and when she finally reveals it, it sucks the air out of the room. 'I'll Be Here' was exquisite, and not what I expected.
Alison commands the stage. From her frustration to elation, neurosis to resolution, Alison quickly endears herself to the audience in 'Dear Professor Thompson,' her email attempt to her professor over her late project. Besides being a vocal standout, she is a sassy, comic gem. The scene in the Met and Starbucks had the audience cracking up. Her body language and facial expressions leave nothing to the imagination. Alison's and Ricky's relationship feels completely authentic, especially Deb and Warren's first meeting at the Met. When Alison is ready to give up, completely lost in the Met, they finally connect. The scene reminded me of playing keep-away with my sister when we were kids. Do you want it? Tease the book, remove the book, and repeat. It is comedy gold.
As Warren, Ricky is the heart of the production, finding beauty in the ordinary, being the reason that the lives he touches become better for having that random connection. His fun, lively 'Sort-of Fairy Tale' definitely puts a smile on your face. His flyers tossed from the highest building like a ticker-tape parade bring down the wall surrounding Claire, allow Jason to reclaim his true love, and help Deb see a future she could not imagine before. Ricky has a rich and powerful voice and gives Warren a sweet, lonely, but try to see-the-world-through-rose-colored-glasses presence.
Though each had his individual standout performance, my favorite in the production was when the four stories converge, and voices blend seamlessly together. When talent is this strong with the beautiful live piano by Steve McColley, each voice compliments the other and makes for outstanding and impressive numbers.
Ordinary Days is a poignant, flawless, unadorned production.
In the introduction, Karla says to her audience, "I love this play. I hope you will love it too and will tell everyone about this play."
I do, Karla, and I most certainly will.