Ordinary Days is a breath of fresh air for the West End, which is currently dominated by bland, cash-cow musicals. A great score and book, an extremely talented cast, and simple and effective design make this a musical that more people should see.
Ordinary Days acts as a snapshot of everyday life in New York via two sets of characters and their stories, told through songs and vignettes. Deb and Warren provide the shallower, almost comic relief style, relationship, whereas Jason and Claire act as a kind of romantic lead couple, albeit in more postmodern, post 9/11 couple kind of way. The music establishes Ordinary Days firmly in the recent school of New York composers more recent school of New York composers, with comparisons to shows like I Love You, Because and I Sing! not unwarranted.
One of the things that strikes you with this show is the calibre of the cast. Comprised of West End stalwarts, the four performers breeze through the material, giving the material the perfect amount of humour and emotion. Julie Atherton, in particular, is a revelation as Claire. Her cold, almost detached demeanour, coupled with one of the most gorgeous voices I’ve heard in a long time, makes you want to know more about the character. Alexia Khadime, fresh from her turn as Elphaba in Wicked, has great comic timing with her character and a great voice to boot. Both Daniel Boys and Lee William-Davis play and sing the characters perfectly. However, I did see more than a glimpse of Austin from I Love You, Because and was not surprised to see that Boys played the character at the Landor Theatre.
The stage is functional, simple and evocative, with a clear, modern New York feel. With another piece, the geometrical shapes and sleek tiles that comprise the set may come across as cold, but with Ordinary Days it works perfectly as tiny pieces representing the whole city. The direction as well feels snappy and keeps the pace moving, which for a musical with only one act is extremely important. This also gives the show a pacey feel, which provides a perfect chance for Claire’s revelation to crush you in her final song.
Some may comment that the songs sound a little too similar, and the show is a little too short to get to know the characters. However, aside from these minor flaws, Ordinary Days is a great example of the calibre of new work currently coming out of the New York musical theatre scene. Composer Adam Gwon fits perfectly in with the likes of Kerrigan and Lowdermilk, Cunningham and Salzman and Scott Alan. However, this stands out, as it has a little more depth and feels a little more ‘real’ than these other shows.
After a successful run at the Finborough Theatre in 2008, it’s heartening to see a West End run for Ordinary Days. I hope that more people will see this gem of a show.
Reviewed by Luke Murphy February 17, 2010