Atlantic Beach Experimental Theatre Review
Dick Kerekes & Leisla Sansom [email protected]ABET opened up its first show of 2016 with a New Year’s present to theatre lovers with “Ordinary Days,” a delightful musical making its North Florida premier. It opened on January 20th and will be on-stage in Atlantic Beach through February 7th.
The musical was created by composer and lyricist Adam Gwon, who has been involved with several musicals, with this being the most successful. It is playing not only across the country but worldwide. Why? We all know that musicals are the most popular form of theatre for the majority of the patrons of live theatre, and this one is relatively easy to produce. Four really good singers are required; you will find that ABET’s cast is superb. Only one musician, an accomplished piano player, is needed. Additionally, the set is simple, with few props, and no fancy costumes.
The story is set in New York City and is about the daily lives of two couples; hence the title “Ordinary Days.” Instead of talking about what is going on in their lives, they sing Gwon’s delightful songs, which are very snappy and fast-paced during the first act of this show. The pace slows for some of the more romantic songs during the second act. The show has twenty songs and is about ninety minutes long.
The first couple we meet on the streets of NYC are Deb and Warren. Composer/playwright Gwon has made them the funniest characters and they provide most of the hilarious humor.
Deb is played by Katie Swider McCloskey, whom many may remember as an outstanding performer in several musicals in the past, which included Avenue Q (Kate Monster) and “Dirty Blonde” (Mae West). Deb, who is a graduate student, is distraught when she discovers she has lost a notebook which contains irreplaceable research for her planned thesis on Virginia Woolf.
Warren, who discovers the lost notebook on a city street, returns it. Deb is initially disinterested in his overtures of friendship, but becomes more accepting after he confirms that yes, he is gay. Warren is played by Jacksonville newcomer, Tyler D. Humphrey, who is only here temporarily, as he will be returning to New York to continue his career in theatre/film. He is a musical theatre graduate of Shenandoah Conservatory and was previously a student at Florida School of the Arts in Palatka. He is both a fine singer and an excellent expressive comedian.
Jason and Claire, the second couple we meet, are romantic partners, and Jason is in the process of setting up housekeeping with Claire. Moving in with each other seems to be separating them, as they have disagreements over minor things; things like sharing living space and choosing wines. Things come to a head during in a visit to the Metropolitan Museum, when they don’t seem to seek out experiences together.
Jason’s character is in the very capable hands of multiple award-winning actor Josh Waller, who is equally noted for his dramatic acting talent in any number of plays, most recently in The 5 & Dime’s production of “Clybourne Park.” Musically, his diverse achievements include roles such as Jean Valjean in “Les Misérables” and Hedwig in “Hedwig and the Angry Inch.”
In the role of the very attractive Claire is the very talented Caroline Brazelton, who is also new to our local stages. She recently graduated from Stetson University, in DeLand, Florida, with degrees in Vocal Performance and Music Education. Her musical credits include appearances in “Into the Woods” as the Baker’s Wife, and “Candide,” as Cunegonde. She is currently studying with Matt Morgan and Dr.Carole Clifford and has started a private studio of her own. Toward the end of Act Two, Ms. Brazelton sings “I’ll Be Here,” the most beautiful song in the show. And we especially enjoyed the duet she and Mr. Waller sang while at the Met. `
While “Ordinary Days” requires four exceptional singers to be successful, the music director and pianist are equally vital. Robin Brazelton handles both responsibilities with poise and polish! She teaches music at Clay High School and has had many years of involvement in musical theatre as an actress/singer and director.
If you need a director for a musical in North Florida, the man to call is obviously Lee Hamby, who has cast and directed award- winning musicals at theatres throughout the area. Hamby has a remarkable eye for talent and when planned productions under his direction are announced, excellent actors crowd the auditions.
The theme of this musical about young men and women living New York is a subject with which we, as involved theatre fans, are familiar. Over the years of reviewing local theatre, we have known a number of actors who have gone to New York to seek opportunities in the wild world of theatre in the big city. Some remain, involved in theatre and often involved with other jobs as well. Many more have stayed for a period of time, and then returned to rejoin the local theatre community, bringing new ideas and knowledge to local audiences.
The ABET Production Team: Director-Lee Hamby; Musical Director-Robin Brazelton; Stage Manager-Jonathan Leonard; Managing Artistic Director-Celia Frank; Technical Director-Bryan Frank.
Don’t miss this remarkable and unique musical about four New Yorkers who become musically entwined as they discover the extraordinary beauty of everyday life. For reservations call 249-7177 or visit abet theatre.com