Drayton Arms Theatre, London – until 9 December 2017
Guest reviewer: Gregory Forrest
A single piano backs this tongue-in-cheek trip into the lives of four ordinary New Yorkers living out ordinary days. In just 75 minutes we traverse heartbreaks, five-year plans, and the elaborate traffic network which swirls around the Metropolitan Museum of Art. A distinctly American musical about Central Park, Broadway, and groceries from Gristedes, Ordinary Days doesn’t shake up the twenty-first century, but this is certainly a solid production.
The music itself is sweet, simple, and a bit sickly at times. Lyrically it is a paint-by-numbers affair. There is a list song, a quick-speak song, a contrasting duet, and plenty of ‘I want’ belters thrown in for emotional measure.
Three things elevate the evening out of obscurity. Firstly, the rapid-firing and side-splitting ‘Fine’, an argumentative duet which includes the best exchange of the evening: ‘Fine! I’ll bring the red, you bring the white / That way I’ll still get drunk, you’ll still be right / Fine! / Fine! / Fine!’
Secondly, there is the glorious Deb. A semi-neurotic slice of contemporary crisis. Nora Perone completely nails the role with her excellent vocals and comic timing. Before she has uttered a word, Perone is hilarious. Her astute physical presence suggests Deb’s bubbling rage at every turn, while in quieter moments she is always able to explore the darker side of crazy.
And finally, there is the beautiful ‘I’ll Be There’. The most famous song from the musical, it is four minutes of storytelling and emotion. Memories flood the stage, screwing up the timescale of the show in a glorious turn. As Claire, Natalie Day nails this heart-wrenching showstopper, and brings the evening to a tearful close.
Elsewhere Ordinary Days is, well, like the wine, distinctly fine. Songs move along at plinky plonky pace, and get us to where we need to be. Direction from Jen Coles is focused and cohesive, and keeps the comic cadences of Adam Gwon’s lyrics cleverly in view. This production doesn’t soar; as Deb would say, it doesn’t quite reach the sky. But it surely does try. With charm and wit, it flutters.
Ordinary Days runs through 9 December.
The Play’s the Thing UK is committed to covering fringe and progressive theatre in London and beyond. It is run entirely voluntarily and needs regular support to ensure its survival. For more information and to help The Play’s the Thing UK provide coverage of the theatre that needs reviews the most, visit its patreon.