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Ordinary Days

"Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans." - John Lennon

Ordinary Days

After my last post it's probably quite clear that I'm excited by new work, and this is another successful example of this, but this time in the realm of musical theatre. Adam Gwon's new musical is on at Trafalgar Studios 2 - though walking past the theatre it would be hard to know this. The theatre's boards are all full of publicity for Studio 1's End of the Rainbow, a show I desperately want to see, but I just think it's a shame there's not more publicity for this. Studio 2 is an intimate setting with a capacity of only 100. I found it frustrating that there was still empty seats and just hope word of mouth and reviews gets more people in.

The musical seamlessly flits through the lives of four young people living in New York. It's often been said that cities encapsulate life at its most intense, through its densely chaotic nature - and the structure here conveys this as we catch glimpses of one couple and two individuals who meet and the places they go. The set is minimalist and props are given multiple purposes whether it be in the couple's flat or into the Met museum as pieces of questionable modern art. The consistency of the space's adaptability is impressive in its simplicity. Rather than gimmicks such as flying cars and fire, here the design team encapsulate the character's worlds in a few subtle changes, where the audience are - for once, indulged in the fun of imagination.

Gwon's lyrics are incredibly written, building up a sense of real character such as the chaotic mind of the student trying and failing to find 'calm.' Rather than just seeming neatly written for the stage, which they inevitably are, the lyrics capture the way we think and communicate. The songs and story range from funny to moving. It is one of these narratives where if you try to describe it, it may seem like not a lot happens. As the title of the musical may suggest, this is at the heart of the musical - ordinary people living ordinary lives, and this is the beauty of it. The characters are not above us, leading a perfect academic or romantic life, but rather struggling to find their way as everyone does. The characters are likeable and thus seeing them in such situations we can empathise with their difficulties. 'Let things go' shows the attempt and failure to throw away old things hoarded for sentimental value, and Atherton's effortless voice floats around the score with beautiful riffs and intonations evoking truth in this ordinary task. 'Big Picture' made me think about the way we may relentlessly strive to have, a perhaps unknown, purpose in life to give us meaning, neglecting the importance of the beauty in everyday moments and in our relationships. The real 'events' in the show are such moments of realisation in the characters which are shared with the audience, and the intimate nature of Studio 2 only enhances this. 'I'll Be Here' very nearly had me in tears, such a beautiful and poignant song where we come to understand this character who has previously seemed detached from her world and relationship.

The cast of four play this fantastically, with both emotional depth and also perfect comic timing. I had seen Daniel Boys and Julie Atherton in Avenue Q, and it was so nice to see them working together again, here still seeking 'purpose' but after some more jading life experiences for their characters. The vulnerability Boys and Atherton express is so moving, with a version of romance more akin to 500 Days of Summer than many offerings in the West End, but with a little more hope! I had seen Alexia Khadime in Wicked and Lion King, and to see her having the opportunity to have such fun with this neurotic but hilarious character was great. Lee William-Davis was the only new face to me, but is now someone I will look out for - evoking such excitement through his character and consequently in the audience.

This understated musical may lack the grandeur of other West End musicals but what it has is this sense of intimacy - an insight into four lives. It is familar in its depiction of ordinary life, but provides change by seeing everyday encounters with a renewed sense of enthusiasm. The one word to describe this show would be beautiful - the music, lyrics, vocals and endearing characters. I wish I could see this show again but with its short run, and a distinct lack of funds, I will have to make do with buying the soundtrack. Although, I wish there was a London recording. I'm sure the original broadway recording is great, but the stunning voices I heard Tuesday night are just sensational.

Ordinary Days is booking until 5th March. Performances are Monday to Saturday at 7.45pm and matinees on Thursday and Saturday at 3pm. Standard ticket price is £30 with an offer of £18 on the website. The theatre is a short walk from Charing Cross and Embankment stations.

For more information & to book tickets go to Ordinary Days at the Trafalgar Studios.

Comments

  1. Yes, the minimalistic set design was clever in conveying New York's energy and urgency. While I enjoyed this musical, I didn't find it particularly enthralling. Also I must have been the only one who didn't cry when 'I'll Be There' was sung.

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