Ordinary Days is an off-Broadway chamber musical, originally produced by American composer Adam Gwon. The piece is almost entirely in song, featuring an upbeat and contemporary fusion of jazz and cabaret-style music, and this is the medium in which the entire story and its characters are delivered. The story follows four ordinary New Yorkers, who begin as strangers but whose lives intertwine as the story unfolds. The opening scene is a perfect vignette of the protagonists’ loneliness, as they all cross paths in the busy city, but they do not notice or acknowledge each other at all. At its core, Ordinary Days is a story about four loners, desperate to find a real and sincere connection, and to feel visible and important amongst Manhattan’s “sea of strangers”. The ordinary nature of the four characters and the very simple and human nature of their common desire makes for a relatable and heart-warming story, complimented by its healthy injection of humour, and compelling characterisation.
The play is fairly minimalist and simple, and so its main strength comes from its characters. Such a play needs a captivating and energetic cast to carry the performance, and this production was in no way lacking, as the actors brought these dynamic and multi-faceted characters to life. Particularly impressive was the cast’s knack for instant characterisation, and pretty quickly they were each able to establish a strong, distinct personality which could be immediately recognised by the audience. Máth Roberts’ performance of the adorably naïve Warren was the perfect blend of exasperating immaturity counter-balanced with an endearing and admirable optimism. Roberts was able to show Warren’s good-nature, even through his irritatingly whimsical and quirky complexion. This was contrasted with Ruby Nicholson’s potent depiction of Deb, the head-strong and cynical grad student in search of a sense of calm. Nicholson ensures that, despite her character’s comical grumpiness, Deb’s sincere hopes and fears are still conveyed with vulnerability. JJ Gibbs’ Jason appears infinitely patient and kind-hearted, but, through Gibbs’ subtle acting, it was clear that behind his enduring smile he senses a growing disconnect between him and his girlfriend, Claire. Fifi Zanabi as Claire flawlessly showcases the distance and dissatisfaction Claire feels in her relationship, even when she is trying to appear engaged and present. While the acting in the show is remarkable, the real talent of these four is their rich and mellifluous singing, and this is what really made the show.
Ordinary Days is a vibrant explosion of sprightly zeal and a flamboyant fervour, and the musical’s main appeal comes from its wit, and its genuinely endearing characters and friendships. Its themes of fate, love and real human connection make for a light-hearted, feel-good piece and every moment in this hour-or-so long play is entertaining and showcases the sheer talent of the entire team involved. There is an essential, and admittedly refreshing, lightness to the show compared to most student theatre, yet the climax reveals the deep insecurities, motivations and aspirations of the four characters. This helps to deliver the musical’s final and profound message about life and its purpose, and which perspectives you can take in living it. Ordinary Days is the perfect escapism, set thousands of miles from Oxford, and, as you are plunged into the different lives of four immediately likeable characters, the connection with what is being played out in front of you is instant.