By Barry Reszel
Do not ask your children
to strive for extraordinary lives.
Such striving may seem admirable,
but it is the way of foolishness.
Help them instead to find the wonder
and the marvel of an ordinary life.
Show them the joy of tasting
tomatoes, apples and pears.
Show them how to cry
when pets and people die.
Show them the infinite pleasure
in the touch of a hand.
And make the ordinary come alive for them.
The extraordinary will take care of itself.
― William Martin, The Parent’s Tao Te Ching: Ancient Advice for Modern Parents
Millennial parents and parents-to-be seeking to ingrain Martin’s sage advice into their psyches and everyone who wants to embrace the philosophy just a little bit more in the face of an increasingly sad world are advised to journey to BoHo Theatre’s production of the intimately beautiful, simple new musical, Ordinary Days.
Written and composed by Adam Gwon, who the New York Times called “a promising newcomer to our talent-hungry musical theatre,” Ordinary Days explores four young adult New Yorkers’ ordinary lives connecting in funny, heartwarming, amazing ways.
The 19-number songbook is humorous, lovely, tender and memorable. And the tiny, 30-ish capacity Heartland Studio in Rogers Park barely keeps the fabulously talented voices and stunning characterizations of Hannah Dawe, Nick Graffagna, Courtney Jones and Demetrius Spidle from blowing the roof off the joint.
The show is terrifically directed by Jason Fleece who keeps the interconnected stories of thirtysomething couple Claire and Jason and twentysomething singles Deb and Warren clipping along. Musical director and solo pianist Ilana Atkins is divine.
Graffagna plays young artist Warren with resolute honesty, which helps him peel layers of cynicism off graduate student Deb—perfectly, quirkily played by Dawe. With fresh looks and jaw-dropping singing voices richly brought to their roles, these two should look forward to long careers on Chicagoland and national musical theatre stages.
The gorgeous, auburn-haired Jones, who could pass for Heidi Kettenring‘s sister, shares the same rich vocal ability and strong acting chops. Her Claire delivers the script’s most poignant surprise and her performance of the lovely “I’ll Be Here” is high among the show’s many, many musical highlights. In fact, the song was featured on Audra McDonald‘s 2013 album, Go Back Home.
Spidle is a fine, authentic Jason. While his character is the least developed of the four, probably the single nit found in the entire Ordinary Days experience, Spindle’s sincerity and resonance help him round out this magnificent quartet ensemble.
Indeed, this production continues to raise the quality bar of Chicagoland musical theater; BoHo Theatre and Artistic Director Peter Marston Sullivan have done themselves most proud.
But as Warren notes toward the end of the musical, “For beautiful to happen, the beautiful has got to be seen.” So for patrons of only big house shows like Broadway in Chicago, Paramount, Drury Lane, Marriott and Theatre at the Center, BoHo’s cry is to heed Warren’s suggestion, break out of the comfort zone and trek to Rogers Park to unearth this hidden gem.
Don’t let another ordinary day go by without buying a ticket.
BoHo Theatre’s “Ordinary Days” runs Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 pm and Sundays at 2 pm through March 15 at the Heartland Studio Theatre, 7016 North Glenwood, Chicago. Tickets are $20 with discounts for seniors and children. More information and tickets are available at www.BoHo.com.