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From behind the keys

“It’s a little precious, but it spoke to me.” – Deb (Ordinary Days)


It took only two measures of music to get me hooked on Ordinary Days. Buried deep in the bridge of a duet called “Fine” lies a fleeting musical quote from Singin’ in the Rain. I thought I was mistaken when I first heard it. I had to go back and really listen to the lyrics for context to confirm that the quotation was intentional. Then my brain went into overdrive. “Huh, that was cute. Wait… what is this show? Who is this new composer Adam Gwon? He’s CLEVER! How have I not heard of this until now? What have I been missing?!” The afternoon was a write-off as I downloaded the soundtrack and listened to it several times over, piecing together the storylines of the four characters and playing my favourite tracks repeatedly. Ordinary Days instantly made it into my list of Top 5 Musicals I Must Do Before I’m Dead. That was back in October, 2011. I know this because I sent that YouTube link to my dear friend Nicole Milne on October 22nd with a note: “This is the duet I was talking about yesterday.” Nicole is my go-to for all new musical theatre discoveries.


Skip ahead five(ish) years to January 12th, 2017. I’m sitting in a coffee shop with director Eric Coates. Nicole is now working at the GCTC, and thanks to her planting a seed, Eric is interested in producing Ordinary Days and this is a meeting to feel each other out… to see if we might be able to work together. I’ll never forget how quickly our conversation slid from “IF we decide to do this together…” to “When we do this together…” and before I can blink, Ordinary Days is off my wish list and on my To Do list.


I receive the music months in advance, and the prep work begins in earnest. This score is amazing. Beneath the lyrics, literally at my fingertips, lie HUNDREDS of clues that I need to uncover and understand: What does this key change do, emotionally speaking, for the character singing? Why is this rhythm so convoluted? I’ve heard this chord progression several times now… what does it signify? Why does this ONE measure break from the pattern I’ve been playing for 12 measures? Every puzzle solved brings the characters into clearer focus in my mind. But will Eric see things the same way? I’m now emotionally invested!


As I’m writing this, we’ve just wrapped up Day 7 of rehearsals. It seems like it’s been ages since this incredible cast finished learning the bulk of the score but that was just four days ago. Eric gave me free rein while I was working with the cast, stopping me once in a while to give guidance to an actor from his own unique standpoint. Now we’re well into blocking the show and I’m enjoying watching Eric in his wheelhouse. Our interpretations are wonderfully in sync. I’m fascinated by how a single question about a character’s backstory or most deeply buried wishes leads an actor to reshape a phrase ever-so-slightly. I find myself nodding a lot. I’m taking notes.


These are far from ordinary days.