By Matthew G. Moross
It has been more than a decade since I first encountered Adam Gwon’s introspective, sung-through musical “Ordinary Days.”
Back then, the piece struck me as “tuneful, relevant and fresh.”
Today, I find the score remains tuneful. And the show’s themes of disconnection in a hyper-connected world still bear huge relevance.
But I’m going to bail on fresh. Since the musical’s premiere, myriad musicals have used the same style of storytelling — no dialogue with only story songs that move the plot. True, most have not been as successful as Gwon’s fable — but the form has been such a massive fad it now seems ordinary.
While some of the visceral punch of “Ordinary Days” may have diminished for me personally, I am well aware I am in the minority. The musical continues to be extremely successful with productions mounted all over the world. In addition, many of its songs have become cabaret and piano bar staples. There is a passionate audience for this show and its themes — it connects and clicks for many.
The show is an amalgam of songs chronicling the life of four disengaged twenty/thirty-something New Yorkers who are struggling to connect — to each other, to their true self, to their future on an ordinary day NYC.
We first meet Warren. And you will not forget meeting Warren. A force of nature, Warren (embodied here to impossibly bubbly perfection by Nik Gatz) is full of energy, full of sunshine, and full of questions.
Warren has found a notebook on the subway, and he couldn’t be happier. The notebook belongs to Deb, THE poster child for overachievement (Christine Meglino in a tightly controlled and hysterical performance) who is manically trying to hold on as her world just shifted with the loss of her notes.
In another part of the city, Jason (Michael Camelo in a sensitive and reflective turn) is moving in with Claire (the always wonderful Dashira Cortes), the girl he loves and wants to marry. The friction between the two is space. Not just physical, but emotional — how much can we dare to share with each other?
The remaining denizens of NYC are fleshed out with skill by Ryan Fuchs and Regan Zlotnick
Astutely directed by Marc Christopher, SLOC’s production of Gwon’s signature musical showcases an impressive gallery of talent and is about as fine a production as I have seen on local stages.
Stacked with an outstanding cast that gel together, they also excel in individual moments.
Camelo’s vocals are beautifully pensive with “Favorite Places.” Meglino positively nails “Calm” and the zenith of anti-want anthems “Don’t Wanna Be Here.”
The musical’s most well-known song, “I’ll Be Here,” is masterfully and beautifully rendered by Cortes, making it well worth waiting for.
And Gatz. Doubtful you will see a performance as well presented as this for quite a while. Setting his character perfectly with the show’s opening number, “One by One by One,” the actor’s boundless energy elevates the evening to no ordinary production.
With a show this introspective, hearing the lyrics is key, and from where I sat, I caught every word that I was supposed to hear. Big kudos to sound designer Matthew Mascelli and his team. The musical direction — and solo performance — by keyboardist conductor Maria Germain, was seemless and supportive.
Would Gwon’s score benefit from a greater variety in tone and fewer ballads? Yes. I’ll call him and talk to him about it, but in the meantime, I strongly encourage you to go and decide for yourself. You will not be disappointed.
“Ordinary Days” is a wonderful opening to what promises to be a memorable 95th season for SLOC.
A perfect welcome back.
WHERE: Schenectady Light Opera Company, 427 Franklin St., Schenectady
WHEN: Through Oct. 3
HOW MUCH: $20 – $ 32
MORE INFO: 877-350-7378, www.sloctheater.org