Little World Media
Helen Reid Hall
Until 21 Oct 2017

Review by Paige Mulholland

“Ordinary Days” is anything but an ordinary Adelaide musical theatre production. Performing the Adelaide premiere of a well-known, critically-acclaimed show in an underutilised, well-resourced venue with a cast where many of Adelaide’s “big” musical theatre names are noticeably absent, Little World Media aren’t afraid to do things a little differently. Although there were some issues with pitch and harmonies, the emotive performances, innovative and adaptable set, skilled musical direction and the high quality of the source material made for an enjoyable and engrossing show.

Like a high proportion of all fictional stories, “Ordinary Days” follows the stories of young hopefuls trying to make it in New York. Cautious, guarded Claire (Vanessa Lee Shirley) is trying to make room in her crowded life, apartment and heart for her boyfriend Jason (Vince Fusco), who is wholly focused on opening Claire up and winning her over.

Grad student Deb (Emma Gordon-Smith) is desperate to follow her passion and achieve great things, even if she’s not sure what her passion is or how to achieve anything, and falls into an unlikely friendship with struggling artist and cat sitter Warren (Jared Frost), whose frustratingly-consistent optimism clashes violently with her short temper and cynicism. It’s a well-used formula and falls inescapably into clichés from time to time, but as the characters become more and more fleshed out, the story becomes more and more original and exciting.

The show’s musical style and song-cycle format is strongly reminiscent of “The Last Five Years” and, like Jason Robert-Brown’s show, moves easily from comedy (such as the all-too-relatable “Dear Professor Thompson”) to some deeply moving moments (most notably the sad revelation in Claire’s “I’ll Be Here”).

Although the cast are evenly matched when it comes to acting, vocally, Emma Gordon-Smith is a clear standout, with clear tones that fit seamlessly with her character’s fiery nature. Even with the dependable support of Musical Director/Pianist Heather Elliot (who, incidentally, is a crowd favourite with her few cameo parts) the performers sometimes struggle with pitch, which is particularly apparent during the clashing harmonies.

Tim de Jong and Vanessa Lee Shirley’s set is thoughtful and intelligent, with moving pieces that easy transform the stage from The Metropolitan Museum of Art to a crowded apartment to a crowded New York Street. The writing on the walls of the set sometimes pulls focus from the performers, but the show is lyrically and musically complex enough that the audience is always pulled back into the fray quite quickly.

It is wonderful to see young musical theatre companies in Adelaide, particularly those that are taking risks with less common shows and new ways of doing things. Although some members of the cast struggled with the rigours of this complex score, the show was still moving, enjoyable, and brave, and that in itself is a little extraordinary.