EFR - Reviews of Ordinary Days

Ordinary Days

Sun 14th – Mon 29th August 2016

reviews

Miriam Brittenden

at 12:59 on 17th Aug 2016

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Gone Rogue Productions’ ‘Ordinary Days’, directed by Emily Bradshaw, is an enjoyable, albeit rather unextraordinary night of musical theatre. The musical is set in New York City, and follows the life of four young characters: Warren, sweet and ever optimistic; Deb, the cynical and disillusioned grad student; and Jason and Claire, the couple who have just moved in together. It explores how lives can connect with each other in the most remarkable ways. It’s uplifting and charming at times, but the performance is far from perfect.

The cast should be praised for their consistent diction and clarity, a challenge in a musical that has no spoken dialogue. All the better to appreciate the considerable humour that is to be found in this musical – the genius of American writer and composer Adam Gwon. Gwon’s knack for finding hilarity in the small things is done justice by the cast. Jokes about ridiculous Starbucks orders, academic culture and couple arguments about which wine (red or white) to take to the family gathering, hit the funny spot and are well received.

Nonetheless, the performance struggles in many ways. It takes far too long to gain real momentum. A string of similar sounding solo numbers and some unimaginative blocking left me feeling bored for the first part of the play. For too long, the character’s stories are disconnected, and at times the earlier part of the show feels more like a mediocre musical theatre recital than anything else: repetitive and bland. Though this is in part down to the musical score itself, and the lack of band (inevitable for many musical shows at the Fringe), the performers themselves often lack confidence in terms of physicality, and fail to use the performance space effectively.

The show does however pick up, and by the second half I am enjoying myself. Some stand out moments are the company’s group performances of ‘Rooftop Duet/ Falling’ and Warren and Deb’s final number, ‘Beautiful’. The duets and group numbers are a strength of the show and cast, with some very well-crafted and enjoyable harmonies. It is a shame that there are not more of these. Some of the soloists struggle by comparison. Loïc Radermecker's performance as Jason, though well acted, unfortunately struggles vocally on several occasions. On the other hand, Pheobe Judd, who played Claire, should be particularly praised for her strong vocals throughout.

As with many Fringe shows, the low budget understandably entails a pretty Spartan set, props and costume. 'Ordinary Days' however, takes that to the extreme, with their set looking distinctly amateur – a couple of plastic boxes filled with clutter. I think there is room for much more imagination here.

'Ordinary Days' is a sweet and pleasant evening of musical theatre which showcases some real talent, but like its name it fails to be particularly extraordinary.

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Becky Wilson

at 09:01 on 18th Aug 2016

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‘Ordinary Days’ is a musical about four unremarkable people. Two are a couple, the other two at the beginning of a new friendship. Set in New York City, there are a few near misses, but neither pair ever actually encounters the other. Claire, Jason, Deb and Warren are instead united through pleasant harmonies and vaguely uplifting, albeit clichéd metaphors about their collective wish to break free from the entrapment of the city. Gone Rogue Productions’ take on this musical is clearly a modest, low-budget affair. However, partly due to the strength of the material, and partly due to the talents of the cast, this does not ultimately hinder enjoyment of the show.

This musical has no dialogue: it is entirely sung, from start to finish. This poses quite a few problems, most notably for musical director Gem Tunley. Playing the keyboard, she carries the burden of responsibility for the accompaniment entirely upon her own shoulders. Unfortunately, a single over-amplified keyboard is an insufficient soundtrack for a musical like ‘Ordinary Days’, and the addition of further instruments to support Tunley would do wonders for the show. There are presumably budget limitations which have prevented Gone Rogue from going down this route, and which are understandable. Nevertheless, the other musical problems – glaring ones – do not need money to rectify them. A simple sound check should have identified the fact that the keyboard is far too loud for the voices, often drowning out the singers’ efforts completely, and leaving the intelligent lyrics unheard.

The set likewise suffers from budget constraints, consisting solely of two large black boxes. Occasionally, a red blanket is strewn lazily across to signal a scene change to the bedroom. This is a great shame, and I think greater resourcefulness and creativity is needed on the part of the production team.

Despite all this, with the aid of a sharply comic script, the actors thrive. Both men show glimpses of comedic and musical talent, but both also struggle with the high notes. Contrastingly, Phoebe Judd who plays Claire, does not have to work hard to capture our attention. Though her warm singing voice and gently sad facial expressions contrast with the frazzled cynicism of the hilarious Bella Norris (as Deb), both are a league above their male counterparts. All characters come into their own in their group interactions: the unlikely friendship between sarcastic Deb and idealistic Warren (Josh Vaastra) features enough friction to propel the show forward to its conclusion.

Gone Rogue’s production is certainly modest. But then, for a musical about normal, everyday people, perhaps that’s apt. Strong performances and an endlessly amusing score raise the quality of this show, making it worth a watch.

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