Who: Hamilton Theatre Project
What: Ordinary Days
Length: Approximately 90 minutes
Where: Staircase Theatre Bright Room (27 Dundurn Street North)
When: January 29 & 30 at 8pm; February 6 & 7 at 8pm; February 8 at 2pm & 8pm
Tickets: $25 for adults; $20 for students/seniors/arts workers through Hamilton Choir Project
When thinking of the setting for a musical, the Staircase Theatre’s Bright Room doesn’t immediately come to mind. However, the intimate setting lends itself perfectly as the backdrop for the quiet personal musical, Ordinary Days, being currently produced by Hamilton Theatre Project.
Chairs are set on either side of the stage area, so that audiences are forced to be directly engaged with the characters lives no matter where they are positioned. Eye contact is inevitable. And for ninety minutes, Ordinary Days transports its audience from a small space in Hamilton to the vast possibilities of New York, and characters Warren, Deb, Jason and Claire. The story of these four people and how their lives are woven together is told through nineteen songs and very little speaking.
Performed without an intermission, the production was highly relatable. The big emotions, big plans and even bigger messes was a callback to anyone in their twenties. However, the evolution of the characters is equally relatable, with the final scenes serving as a reminder of the need to be kinder and gentler to oneself and the emotions that come with inevitable self-reflection- growth, but still all very messy.
Nick Settimi gave a standout performance as Warren, a young artist searching for meaning and connection in everything from lost valentines to faded photographs. Not only did his warm voice and excellent comedic timing fill the space, but he perfectly encapsulated and communicated the basic human need for connection and the loneliness of being just one person in a big city like New York.
While the story between couple Claire (Amber Mills) and Jason (Jeff Giles), grappling with their respective pasts and possible futures was relatable, the relationship felt strained. However, Mills’ final song, “I’ll be here,” was genuinely moving and left more than one person in the audience glossy-eyed.
The direction of the performance was in good hands under Hamilton theatre veteran Luke Brown. The musical featured live accompaniment from Music Director and pianist Kate Boose. Despite her very prominent role in the performance (as the only musical accompaniment) and excellent execution, the audience was unable to see her or the piano. This may have been intentional, or it may have been due to space constraints; however, as she was out of sight, it was easy to forget that the accompaniment was live.
During Ordinary Days, character Deb (Vicktoria Adam) asks “What’s your big picture?” as the musical poses questions to these young adults on why they are there and what they are doing with their lives. These are enormous questions in any context, and Ordinary Days gives a valiant effort of trying to address these questions in a rather short amount of time. However, the pacing at the end of the musical felt a little rushed as the story tried to wrap up- I would not have opposed a few additional songs to see the characters find a more fulfilling conclusion.
Ordinary Days is the first official production for Hamilton Theatre Project, but was well-chosen and due to its size and scale, is not a performance that many other local groups may attempt. It was a really nice surprise to watch a musical that was so adaptable and contemporary not just in its context, but in its staging as well. Like the characters in Ordinary Days, I’m looking forward to seeing this company grow and evolve with new experiences and what they may share with the Hamilton community next.
Feature photo courtesy of Hamilton Theatre Project.