Salt Lake City — A small, intimate, black box theatre. A simple, yet colorful, set. A sold out opening night. This is the experience that greeted me as I attended the opening night of Ordinary Days produced by the Utah Repertory Theater Company and directed by Chase Ramsey. I was excited to watch a show that I had little prior exposure to. I was hoping to find a new gem.
Ordinary Days, with music and lyrics by Adam Gwon, is the story of two sets of individuals. One set is a couple that has been together for a while and are starting to drift away from the relationship they once had. The second set is two strangers who have just met. Each character is trying to figure out what they want next in life, while living life in New York City. The circumstances are ordinary, but the people in the story are not. This show is a fun and delightful story that a variety of people can relate to. It is told entirely through song, has a cast of four, and is about 75 minutes long. It’s short and sweet. There is so much more I want to tell you about this story, but I don’t want to give anything away.
The cast members were so locked into their characters that I can’t write of an actor without writing about a character at the same time. The show kicks off by introducing Warren, played by Thomas Kulkus. I was instantly struck with the excited energy of Kulkus. Warren is a guy who loves life and doesn’t seem to let it get him down for long. He might not know exactly where he is going in life, but he’s excited about it. He is the life source of this production. Kulkus did a fantastic job! He was so firmly in character that he captured my attention right from the start and kept it to the end. Every time he came on stage I was excited to see what he would do next. By the end of the production I just wanted to keep Warren in my pocket.
Deb, played by Brighton Hertford, is a graduate student who is working on her thesis when she meets Warren. Deb is a little high strung, especially during her first meeting with Warren, but it only takes just a short while for them to talk. The saying,”Big things come in little packages” could have been written about Hertford. Hertford did an outstanding job of acting with every ounce of her body. Deb was a fantastic ball of emotions who, in Hertford’s hands, doesn’t just tell a story. At one point she’s talking about her life coach and she does a fun imitation of the life coach. Sometimes when people do imitations of others they do all imitations in the same way. Not Deb, she had a different voice and demeanor for any person she imitated. Deb may have been one character, but Hertford gave her more than one dimension. Again, Hertford was another instance of a performer so in character that she kept my attention and wonder of what would come next. She never became predictable or boring, but she also was never overly intense; it was the perfect blend. I especially enjoyed her performance during the song, “Saturday at the Met,” and “Calm”.
Claire and Jason have been together for awhile now, and the show introduces them as Jason is about to move into Claire’s apartment. Claire, played by Mandi Barrus, doesn’t seem as sure about how the relationship is going as is Jason, played by Matthew Wade. I was able to see where their relationship had once been, and where it was currently at as they sang the song,”I’m Trying.” There was good chemistry between the two when it needed to be there. I felt that Jason is the male stereotype of thinking everything was going well in the relationship while Claire was starting to withdraw. Things really come to a head during the song “Fine”. The two characters created a nice foil to one another. Barrus and Wade blended well vocally, especially during the “Fine” number and Barrus really pulled me in during her performance of “I’ll Be Here”.
The set for this production, by Amanda Ruth Wilson, was a simple contour backdrop of a cityscape and four moveable blocks of varying shapes and sizes. The set was painted in bright green, red, blue, and orange. I felt that the colors of the set represented the emotions of the show. I also like that there were four colors used in the set for a production about four characters. I also appreciated that the colors used were two sets of complimentary colors, just as the show deals with two sets of people who compliment each other. Complimentary colors were also used in Nancy Susan Cannon‘s costume design, which showed a subtle yet delightful connection.
The entire show was accompanied by Jeanne McGuire on the piano. This helped add to the intimate setting of the show. It was just the right touch. More orchestration would have distracted from the show. There is something delightful about live accompaniment to a production, and the music seemed flawless in McGuire’s hands.
As with any live theatre production, there were minor flaws during the performance, but none of them are likely to be reoccurring in future performances. Sound glitches occurred with Hertford’s mic. Hertford, Kulkus, and Wade all had a couple of shaky notes and pitches in their early numbers, especially with their first few high notes, but their solid characterizations more than amply made up for a couple of pitchy moments in the beginning.
I wasn’t familiar with Ordinary Days until attending this production, incidentally the 100th production of the show, but I am so grateful I had this opportunity. It is truly a delightful show. I highly recommend it for a fun night out with friend, and if you’re looking for a fun show that is relatable to a wide variety of people, this is good pick.