Review: Ordinary Days (Angelwalk Theatre/Winnipeg Studio Theatre)
By Wayne Leung
Angelwalk Theatre presents quirky musical Ordinary Days at the Toronto Centre for the Arts
Speaking from experience, your late 20s/early 30s are a turbulent time; you’re figuring yourself out, deciding what you want to do for the rest of your life and often making your first serious go at a real adult relationship. These are some of the core subjects explored in Ordinary Days.
For the first time, Toronto’s Angelwalk Theatre partnered with Winnipeg Studio Theatre for a co-production. Ordinary Days by composer/lyricist Adam Gwon made its debut in 2009 at New York’s Roundabout Theatre. This quirky little musical is a great fit for Angelwalk, a company steadily making a name for itself producing off-Broadway shows in Toronto.
Ordinary Days tells the story of four ordinary New Yorkers; Deb (Connie Manfredi), a perma-frazzled grad student who goes into a mild panic after losing the notes for her graduate thesis; Warren (Justin Bott), an oddball but big-hearted professional cat-sitter for an incarcerated artist; and Jason and Claire (Jay Davis and Clara Scott), a couple who’ve recently moved in together only to find themselves drifting apart.
The show is a bit slow to get off the ground. It starts off with each of the characters doing their requisite “this is who I am, this is what I want” song but I didn’t find the characters or songs particularly compelling right off the top. I dug in wondering whether this whole thing was going anywhere and thinking I might be in for a long 90-minutes. Thankfully, as the show progressed the characters started to grow on me as they became increasingly relatable.
Adam Gwon’s score consists mostly of solo numbers structured as sung-monologues with a few duets and the occasional 4-part counterpoint melody thrown in at a few key moments. The songs serve their purpose but aren’t particularly memorable. Joseph Aragon’s new arrangements are unfussy, featuring keyboard embellished with violin and cello, but also lack variety resulting in a sameness that pervades from one song to the next.
Luckily, for the most-part, I thought the performances elevated the score. Justin Bott is very well cast as the odd but winsome Warren. Bott seems to have the market cornered on these lovable quirky characters. Connie Manfredi is pitch-perfect as the stressed-out, neurotic yet strangely likable Deb. Manfredi has great comedic timing and solid vocal delivery.
Clara Scott turns in a solid performance as the conflicted Clair. I don’t think Jay Davis’ performance in this show is as strong as in others I’ve seen him in recently although I have to wonder if that’s because his character is the least-developed of the four.
The modest yet effective production design works well for the performance space. Scott Penner’s versatile set features abstract cube panels and is able to conjure places as diverse as apartments, taxi cabs, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the New York subway with the help of Siobhán Sleath’s inventive lighting.
While I don’t think it’s a life-changing show and you likely won’t leave humming the songs, Ordinary Days features some great performances and it definitely has heart and charm. It’s imperfect but also quirky, fun and at times even touching.
- Ordinary Days is playing at the Toronto Centre for the Arts Studio Theatre (5040 Yonge Street) through December 9, 2012
- Shows run Tuesday to Saturday at 8:00PM and Sunday at 2:00PM
- Tickets $35 to $45, Under 30 with valid I.D. $25, Groups of 10 or more is $22, Previews – $30
- Tickets are available by phone 416.872.1111 , in person at the box office or visit www.angelwalk.ca
Photo of Justin Bott and Connie Manfredi by Leif Norman