Review: Ordinary Days

Pickle Productions’ new version of Adam Gwon’s Ordinary Days is streaming via The Theatre Cafe now

“I’m simply letting breakfast stir my soul”

Adam Gwon’s four-hander Ordinary Days is one of those musicals that keeps popping up every couple of years and for good reason, since its affecting and uplifting spirit really is rather lovely and, evidently, enduringly timeless. This production by Pickle Productions was destined for a Spring tour but as with so many others, has had to pivot. Staged and filmed in a theatre in Norfolk, it is now available for streaming via The Theatre Cafe.

The show follows 4 young-ish New Yorkers on a seemingly unremarkable day. But as Deb looks for her thesis notes and Warren for a purpose, as Jason moves in with Claire and Claire checks out emotionally, Gwon makes us look at how the vast majority of life is lived in the ‘ordinary’ and how the ongoing search for happiness is tied up in the many everyday decisions that on their own, might not seem to count for much. Continue reading “Review: Ordinary Days”

Graduates at Cadogan Hall concert #3

After the joys of concert #1 and concert #2, the third and final part of Graduates at Cadogan Hall wraps up this brilliant enterprise in fine style. Ameena Hamid Productions and The Grad Fest’s online showcase for 40 2020 and 2021 theatre graduates has been a delight to watch, a reminder of the breadth of talent out there who will rightfully be chomping at the bit to get careers started once we’re further down this infernal roadmap.

And it has been excellent across the board too. Musical director Sam Young does frankly astonishing work from the piano, sounding engaged and responsive to each and every one of the grads across a wide range of styles. And Andy James’ lighting design creates vivid backdrops throughout which you can see look fantastic in Danny Kaan’s shots below – click on each one to read a mini-review of their performance. Continue reading “Graduates at Cadogan Hall concert #3”

Nominations for the 2020 Drama Desk Awards

Outstanding Play
The Inheritance, by Matthew Lopez
Heroes of the Fourth Turning, by Will Arbery, Playwrights Horizons
Cambodian Rock Band, by Lauren Yee, Signature Theatre
Greater Clements, by Samuel D. Hunter, Lincoln Center Theater
Halfway Bitches Go Straight to Heaven, by Stephen Adly Guirgis, Atlantic Theater Company/LAByrinth Theater Company

Outstanding Musical
A Strange Loop, Playwrights Horizons/Page 73 Productions
Octet, Signature Theatre
The Secret Life of Bees, Atlantic Theater Company
Soft Power, The Public Theater
The Wrong Man, MCC Theater Continue reading “Nominations for the 2020 Drama Desk Awards”

Review: Ordinary Days, Cockpit Theatre

SLAM. theatre give a warm account of Adam Gwon’s amiable musical Ordinary Days at the Cockpit Theatre

“I’ll bring the red, you bring the white
That way I’ll still get drunk, you’ll still be right”

Having been around a bit, I love the fact that the first time I saw Adam Gwon’s Ordinary Days at the Trafalgar Studios in 2011, it just happened to feature such actors as Alexia Khadime, Daniel Boys and the glorious Julie Atherton in the cast. I also caught a stirring version a couple of years ago from Streetlights, People!, proving it is a musical that endures and so I was interested to see SLAM. theatre’s interpretation over at the Cockpit Theatre.

At first glance, Ordinary Days appears just that, a simple four-hander about love and life in New York. But pay a little attention, peel back a layer or two, and there’s something much more nuanced here about the loneliness that can accompany metropolitan living, whether looking for romance or friendship, as the emotional distance we use to try and protect ourselves can sometimes end up isolating us. And also how art galleries aren’t necessarily all that… 😉 Continue reading “Review: Ordinary Days, Cockpit Theatre”

Album Reviews: Over the Moon: The Broadway Lullaby Project / Mamma Mia / Il Divo – A Musical Affair

This trio of album reviews covers Over the Moon: The Broadway Lullaby Project, Mamma Mia! The Movie Soundtrack and Il Divo – A Musical Affair

“You know I’ve got
So much that I wanna do”

Over the Moon: The Broadway Lullaby Project has an amazing list of performers, composers, and musicians behind it, all coming together to create a 2-CD set and 48-page children’s book to benefit breast cancer research, support and education. And rather wonderfully, it is an utterly gorgeous record. Brilliant jazz musicians accompany writers like Michael John LaChiusa, Adam Gwon and Kristen Anderson-Lopez & Robert Lopez in indulging their gentler side to create the prettiest tunes. And then a cast of dreams sing them – just listen to Raúl Esparza’s aching tenderness on ‘This Little World’, or Donna Murphy’s crystal clear ‘Lucky’ (by Stephen  Schwartz) – we should all be so lucky to be lulled to sleep this way. Continue reading “Album Reviews: Over the Moon: The Broadway Lullaby Project / Mamma Mia / Il Divo – A Musical Affair”

Review: Ordinary Days, London Theatre Workshop

“If everyone’s got a big picture
How come my picture’s something that I still have yet to see?”

I saw Adam Gwon’s 2008 musical Ordinary Days downstairs at the Trafalgar Studios back in 2011 with a grand cast that included Julie Atherton, Alexia Khadime and Daniel Boys and enjoyed it a fair bit, so news of a new production by Streetlights, People! at the transplanted London Theatre Workshop (now in the City) was glad tidings indeed. Directed by Jen Coles on the simplest of sets, decorated with a Manhattan skyline by Samantha Cates, the show’s relatable charms shine through once again.

The four-hander is a deceptively simple show – a quartet of 20-something New Yorkers are spiritually lost, swept up in what should be the romance of the city but finding that adulting isn’t quite as easy as all that. Jason is sacrificing everything for the woman he loves but Claire’s previously broken heart just won’t heal properly; grad student Deb has lost months of valuable thesis research but when struggling artist Warren finds it, she stubbornly resists any attempt at connection that he makes. Continue reading “Review: Ordinary Days, London Theatre Workshop”

Album Review: Audra McDonald – Go Back Home (2013)

“Maybe someday I’ll get lucky”

It took seven years for Audra McDonald to get around to her fifth solo album Go Back Home but as the adage says, some things are just worth waiting for. As entertaining as her diversion into the world of singer-songwriters on previous collection Build A Bridge was, there’s real joy in hearing her return so whole-heartedly to the world of musical theatre, particularly when it is as gloriously well done as this.

As ever, there’s the mixture of old and new that has typified McDonald’s output – the dips into the classics, represented here by Rodgers and Hammerstein, Sondheim and Styne, and the showcasing of the new, the likes of Michael John LaChiusa, Adam Guettel and Steven Marzullo who have regularly received her patronage. Such intelligent support of her industry has longed proved invaluable and helped to establish her at its forefront. Continue reading “Album Review: Audra McDonald – Go Back Home (2013)”

Review: Audra McDonald, Leicester Square Theatre

“Make just one someone happy,
And you will be happy, too”

It’s hardly Audra McDonald’s fault that the audience for her long-awaited return to the London stage with these two concerts was so de trop but for me, the adulation was exactly that, too much. For the (relative) intimacy of the Leicester Square Theatre, for the cultivation of a cabaret atmosphere, for the genuine appreciation of this her performance here as opposed to the bottled-up idolisation for a body of work from over the ocean.

Which is not to say that the reputation isn’t well-deserved, not at all. A hugely accomplished actor and singer, her record six Tony Awards unprecedently span all four acting categories. And her choice of material here, along with MD Andy Einhorn, demonstrates a real commitment to American musical theatre, delving back into the classic songbook but showcasing newer composers too, never letting an opportunity to explore her social conscience. Continue reading “Review: Audra McDonald, Leicester Square Theatre”

Review: Ordinary Days, Trafalgar Studios 2

“We’ve only just met, but you need to get some perspective on the big picture”

 Ordinary Days is a musical which played at the Finborough back in 2008 but has been slightly revised and revamped during runs in the USA and returns to London to Trafalgar Studios 2. Completely sung-through, Adam Gwon wrote the music and lyrics to all 18 songs which play out over a nifty 80 minutes and this production features two members of that original London cast, including the rather special Julie Atherton.

It is set in contemporary New York looking at the mundane lives of four young adults and how the problems in their lives forces them to seek and/or reassess the connections they make to get through life. As with so many modern American musicals, the immediate reference point seems to be Jason Robert Brown but I have to say there were moments when the music actually reminded me more of Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx’s work in Avenue Q which was nice. Continue reading “Review: Ordinary Days, Trafalgar Studios 2”