What live theatre event would I attend that would make an especially memorable evening, in a good way? I’d buy tickets to Ordinary Days, Our Productions Theatre Company’s first musical in their inaugural 2015 season, also the N. Texas regional premiere of the work by celebrated “up and coming” composer/lyricist Adam Gwon. I saw it a week ago in previews at the MCL Grand Theatre in Lewisville. It’s now running through April 19th at the Studio Theatre at Addison Theatre Centre. So, you can grab healthy, affordable grub nearby before the play, see the show for $30-$35/ticket, and still have some cash to go out for dessert, drinks and discussion after….See http://www.ourdallasproductions.org for show/ticket details.
This is as classy, charming and whimsical a sung through production as any you’ll find in the N. Texas region today. Structured in a contemporary style (no intermission, lots of exposition, simple lyrics, complex harmonies without any hum-worthy memorable tunes, four characters, no realistic sets), it appears to meander along while developing solid character and plot arcs that flex and glide and intersect unexpectedly until they merge in hope-filled harmony at the show’s conclusion. Dramatist Magazine named the show’s creator Gwon one of the “50 to watch”. It’s evident why he won the 2008 Fred Ebb Award for excellence in musical theatre songwriting. He has “flair” and a “unique voice”, as did Stephen Sondheim and Andrew Lloyd Weber when they first emerged on the musical theatre scene. Gwon fits the 2015 vibe, writes for a younger audience with a clearly defined contemporary sensibility. Ordinary Days is a genuinely fun show with thought-provoking moments and a loving spirit. It offers no major descent into humanity’s darker side, no human meat pies baked in the basement and no masked boatman kidnapping a soprano while a pipe organ’s tones drone ominously over the audience.
Director Stephanie Riggs cast her four characters with strong rising regional talents and capitalized on their strengths and quirks to create believable people, in spite of the artificial sung-through convention of the work. At the preview I attended, one voice struggled occasionally to stay on pitch; but I think that arose more out of unfamiliarity with the space and difficulty in hearing the piano than out of lack of skill or talent. The music is demanding and the characters vibrant. The cast includes Sarah Elizabeth Smith, Matthew Silar, David Price and Juliette Talley, all performers with noteworthy professional credentials and promising futures stretching out before them, as singers and actors. Our Productions’ Mark Mullino directs the show’s music.
Visually, the character’s modern dress street clothes (Susan Doke, costumes) and Scott Kirkham’s set design blend well and set appropriate mood and tone while keeping music and characters in full focus. Four left and right stage flanking panels painted with simple line drawings to evoke images of the New York City skyline provide clean context, and an upstage drop curtain serves well as a scene-setting projection background. Lighting designer Julie Simmons washes the set in pastel tones at times, reflecting the kaleidoscopic variety in Gwon’s music. The bare wall effect transitions smoothly into a credible Metropolitan Museum gallery in soft, neutral tones. Very polished and understated in its simplicity.
To repeat, Ordinary Days is as classy, charming and whimsical a modern sung through production as any you could find mounted in this region today. In truth, I have a particular fondness for fully orchestrated, painstakingly restored versions of classic musicals with overtures, intermissions and memorable tunes. I am baffled by the cultural and communication trends demonstrated by many heralded contemporary works and leave the theatre feeling as though I was served an appetizer when I expected a meal. Ordinary Days leans in that direction; but the caliber of writing and this production’s solid execution earn sincere thumbs up from me. I’d enjoy it a second time, if I returned to see it in Addison.
Ordinary Days runs through April 19, 2015.
Photo credit: Scott Kirkham, Our Productions Theatre Co.