Javeenbah Theatre Company’s production of Ordinary Days is pure perfection that moves the audience from laughter to tears to hopeful optimism. This show, which is entirely sung, features music and lyrics by American composer, Adam Gwon. The lives of four ordinary New Yorkers (Claire, Jason, Warren and Deb) are connected in extraordinary ways.
The almost-annoyingly optimistic, Warren (Jake Goodall), spreads the vision of his artist boss (who is in jail for graffiti) through distributing the artist’s sayings on flyers throughout the city. When Warren meets the cynical grad student, Deb (Veronica Wnuk), a series of cosmic events transpire that force Deb to re-examine her goals. This impacts not only their own lives but also those of Jason (Lee Stoka) and Claire (Rachel Love), a couple who just moved in together. The decision to move in together forces Claire to confront her past as the romantic Jason strives to grow closer to his girlfriend.
The set design by Rachel Love is simple, yet perfect. It consists only of Claire’s apartment (positioned downstage left), Deb’s apartment (upstage left), a park bench (upstage right) and Warren’s balcony (downstage right). Claire’s apartment is aesthetically designed with a couch, desk and decorations that scream single woman in her thirties. Deb’s apartment is decked out with a bed and a dresser that fit her grad student lifestyle. The park bench and city backdrop are a nice touch to remind us of the setting in New York City. All of this is separated effectively with white stage panels with empty colourful frames that light up to easily transport the audience from these locations to the Met Museum where some of the action takes place.
The sound design by Mikaela Murphy is flawless with effortless transitions from song to song and a good balance between the vocals and instrumental tracks. The lighting design by Colin Crow, Rachel Love and Sam Flowers, smoothly supports the production with spotlights and a few simple aesthetic touches such as fairy lights behind the park bench and the neon lights in the picture frames.
Directors, Rachel Love and Ricky Moss, create a seamless and highly emotional journey for their audience. The direction is simple, yet clear, with every move and action of the characters underpinned by clear motivation and intention which indicates the strong vision of the directors. Rachel Love is also responsible for the Musical Direction of this production and, since the show is entirely sung, this is where Love’s real genius shines through. The music is expertly directed and this allows the four strong vocalists in this production to shine through.
As Jason, Lee Stoka is a believable romantic who wears his heart on his sleeve as he tries to woo his girlfriend, Claire. Stoka is a strong vocalist with an amazing belt. Stoka’s standout moment, is his heartfelt and emotional performance of the song ‘Favorite Places’. The raw feeling of his performance in this song was hauntingly beautiful and terribly romantic.
Veronica Wnuk is the perfect casting choice for the cynical and sarcastic, Deb. Wnuk is a great, sassy performer with a strong mezzo-soprano voice and another great belter. Wnuk’s comedic timing is impeccable and her chemistry with Jake Goodall’s Warren makes for a highly entertaining evening. Her renditions of ‘Don’t Wanna Be Here’ and ‘Calm’ are both hilarious and relatable.
One of the standout vocalists of this production is Jake Goodall as the lovable, optimistic Warren. Goodall is the heart and soul of this production as he embodies the very spirit of his cheerful character that challenges New York City’s (and the audience’s) intrinsic cynicism. From the moment the show opens with Goodall singing ‘One by One by One’ to the very last notes he sings in ‘Beautiful’, his vocals are perfect. Goodall’s voice is soft and sweet and rings true throughout, imparting emotion with every note.
But no review of Javeenbah Theatre’s Ordinary Days would be complete without mentioning the absolute star of this production, Rachel Love. Love is not only the Co-Director and Musical Director of the show, but also stars as Claire. Love is a phenomenal vocalist who never misses a beat and hits every note with poise and grace. Her clear soprano voice is perfect for Claire and her acting is so authentic and believable. But the true magic of Love’s performance is in the delivery of the song that reveals the pain at the heart of Claire’s struggle in ‘I’ll Be Here’. Love sings this song with such feeling that tears can be seen in her eyes as she remembers her husband who passed away on September 11. This moment is absolutely heart-wrenching, and the audience can’t help but be moved to tears. Despite the emotion of the moment, Love’s vocal control is phenomenal and never once does the emotion impact on the quality of her singing. She is simply superb. Bravo!
Javeenbah Theatre Company’s production of Ordinary Days is a wonderfully uplifting piece of theatre that challenges the audience’s intrinsic cynicism and begs them to embrace the simple joys of life and find the beauty in ordinary things. The small cast of four are all phenomenally talented and together they bring these ordinary characters to life in a way that has the audience laughing, crying and celebrating life, love and hope. This is a show you will not want to miss.
Ordinary Days closes this weekend and tickets are still on sale for Thursday 30 September, Friday 1 and Saturday 2 October here.