Good things come in small packages, they say, and you couldn’t get much smaller than Adam Gwon’s chamber musical Ordinary Days. This delicious morsel is a piece that leaves you wanting more. It’s not perfect by any means, but in assembling a stellar cast, director Adam Lenson has created as near an unmissable off-West End musical as possible.
Julie Atherton, Daniel Boys, Alexia Khadime, and Lee William-Davis are the overwhelmingly talented quartet who tease every nuance from Gwon’s deceptively light, and occasionally juvenile book. Of the four, Atherton has perhaps the greatest journey, and she handles it with dexterity and poise, subtly shifting from comedy to heartbreak.
Matching Atherton in vocal dexterity and persuasive performance, Boys is an amiable, laid-back counterpoint to her uptight city girl. There is touching tenderness to both their performances which is delightful to watch. William-Davis offers a beautifully controlled performance and vocal, which is astonishingly sensitive and rich. Khadime has perhaps the least revealing material to work with, she is perfectly cast as a wise-cracking New Yorker, but her character never really develops further. Vocally, she is faultless throughout.
Gwon delivers moments of pure lyrical and dramatic intensity that literally take your breath away
At just eighty minutes long, Ordinary Days does feel like a revue rather than a fully realised musical – there is precious little time to develop the four characters completely, leaving us wanting a little more focus. It lacks structure in the middle as we wait for each character to have their own epiphanic moment of song, but once these have all been efficiently dispensed with, Gwon delivers moments of pure lyrical and dramatic intensity that literally take your breath away.
The musical direction, by Richard Bates and his band of three, is flawless and feeling, while Alistair Turner’s simple set is efficiently deployed to make the most of the space. Adam Lenson’s direction is generally tight and focussed, although in the confined space of Trafalgar Studio 2, the constant on-and-offing of the characters is a trifle clumsy and distracting. One of Lenson’s great skill is allowing the music to tell the story as simply and affectingly as possible, rather than acceding to the emotion of the piece, and descending into mawkish manipulation.
As far as musical theatre goes, this is almost as perfect as it gets, watertight performances, a touching piece, and a deep level of emotion allowed to infuse gently over eighty charming minutes.
**** (4 stars)
Runs until 5th March