The British premiere of Ordinary Days, a new musical by young American composer Adam Gwon that director Adam Lenson discovered on MySpace, may not quite yield an extraordinary evening, but it heralds a lot of welcome promise. Not least for the fact of that discovery - there are now new ways for composers to reach out with their work and find creators who want to put it on. This staging duly follows a mere four months after its first production at Penn State University.
Gwon - trained at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts - has a vibrant ear for melody and a strong lyrical voice, but he has not as yet forged them into something completely individual. There are strong echoes of Bill Finn and inevitable traces of Sondheim, and while there is tellingly no book writer credited, the show comes across as a through-sung cross between Jason Robert Brown’s Songs for a New World and Maltby and Shire’s Closer than Ever.
The songs feel as if they are written as stand-alone moments to project particular thoughts or narratives, that have then been a little strenuously shoe-horned into hanging off the collisions of two couples in contemporary New York, tracing the emerging tensions in the relationship of Clare and Jason, and the evolving friendship between Deb and Warren.
Director Adam Lenson does a smart job of revealing the patterns and connections that are being sketched here, and giving them a carefully blended sense of fluidity. Richard Healey and Stephanie Harsant anchor the songs with the lovely arrangements that they play on piano and cello respectively. But the production is also a testament to the love and commitment that the company bring to it, and Julie Atherton - arguably London’s leading lady of new musical voices thanks to her ongoing commitment to the Notes from New York series - is ideally complemented by the solid, full-voiced presence of Kenneth Avery-Clark, while Hayley Gallivan and Lee William-Davis bring a quirky sense of individuality to their characters.