A CurtainUp Review
By Elyse Sommer
Following the stories of four young adults living un-extraordinary lives in New York, in a musical that pretty much fits the sung-through genre and with a single piano orchestra (expertly played by Vadim Feichtner) isn't exactly something to send crowds rushing to the box office. But that's not a problem here since it doesn't take crowds to fill the Roundabout's 62-seat Black Box Theater created to introduce and cultivate playwrights, and now, composer-lyricists. The intimacy of this space affords every audience members a prime seat and that rate pleasure: hearing songs without amplification.
Unsurprisingly, the New Yorkers Gwon has concocted to tell his story all have problems. For starters we have Warren (Jared Gertner), who's a gay, lonely and something of a nonentity. When we meet him, he's carrying on the work of a jailed graffity artist (pray painting homilies all over the city) by handing out printed versions of those sayings to passersby, who pay no more attention to his handouts than they would to any announcements of bargains and events. This unsuccessful endeavor highlights his sense of loneliness and alienation. Warren's story gets more interesting through a lost notebook that connects him with Deb (Kate Wetherhead), an NYU graduate student. Wethead is delightfully confused about everything from the subject of her thesis or whether to stay in New York.
The other characters, Jason and Claire (musical theater veterans Hunter Foster and Lisa Brescia), are a couple whose relationship is not doing well despite (or because?) their having just moved in together. They get two of the show's best songs, "Let Things Go", and "I'll Be Here."
As for the music generally, the lyrics are quite witty and don't strain to land their rhymes. The melodies are less memorable but that may be because they just keep coming on which tends to weaken the overall impact. As with any musical, the tunes might resonate more with repeated listening.
The somewhat bland and archetypical underpinnings notwithstanding, the excellent cast and attractive staging makes this a pleasantly enjoyable 80 minutes. Director Marc Bruno does manage to bring out what's best about this little show, its flavor of the anonymity of a huge city like New York which nevertheless allows strangers to connect and affect each other — shades of the ever popular anecdotes in The New York Times "Metropolitan Diary" column.
Like The Last Five Years, by Jason Robert Brown (whose work Gwon is likely to bring to mind), Ordinary Days is likely to have its share of other production. In fact, while this is the first musical for the Underground theater, it's already been staged at Britain's Finborough Theatre and elsewhere in this country. The $20 ticket policy for these Roundabout productions also makes it eligible for Curtainup's piggy bank icon to flag up live theater bargains.