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Musical Theatre Guild of Butler brings charming show to stage

‘Ordinary Days’
Claire (Paulina Neuschwander) and Jason (Matt Leslie) explore New York City in Musical Theatre Guild's production of “Ordinary Days.” Michael Dittman/Special to the Eagle

A few months ago, the Musical Theatre Guild of Butler announced on social media that, due to casting issues, the planned production of “The Bridges of Madison County” was canceled and would be replaced by the musical “Ordinary Days.” What might have been a disaster for the company turned out to be a blessing for the audience, as MTG has created a show that shines with insight.

Director Matt Mlynarski's affinity for “Ordinary Days” is palpable throughout the performance. With its lesser-known status and unique format — a sung-through chamber musical featuring just four characters — helming the production presents both a challenge and an opportunity. Fortunately, Mlynarski has helped create a chemistry among cast members, carrying the narrative effortlessly.

Jessica Sanzotti takes on all of the musical accompaniment. Her skillful playing effectively complements the intimate setting and helps to set the pace of the show. The three-level set design, while simple, ingeniously mirrors the verticality of the cityscape, emphasizing the characters' smallness against the backdrop of urban life.

The opening numbers set the stage for the characters' introspective journeys. Warren (Jeremy Poynton) opens the show with “One By One.” He’s a naif who’s cat-sitting for an artist who’s currently in jail. With his emotional voice, Poyton creates a character for whom the audience feels sympathy and even a little trepidation. How will Warren ever survive in New York City? He spouts feel-good aphorism. He wants to hug strangers in the hopes of meeting new best friends. He literally skips through the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Deb (Jaycie Frye) is an abrasive graduate student who spells out her search for meaning in her first song, “Don’t Want to be Here.” Deb has fled the suburbs and dead-end jobs to attend graduate school in the city. It’s not going well. The loss of her thesis notebook provides the impetus for her and Warren’s (who finds the journal) journey. Frye imbues Deb with a palpable sense of existential angst through her strong vocal performance.

“You don’t want to do New York alone,” Jason (Matt Leslie) sings in “The Space Between.” He’s a romantic who is moving in with his girlfriend, Claire (Paulina Neuschwander). Leslie does an exemplary job selling the character’s wonder and devotion to Clarie with a showman’s flair, an expressive face and a crisp delivery.

In “Let Things Go,” Neuschwander delivers Claire's emotional complexity with aplomb and embodies her character through her voice and phrasing, facial expressions and body movements. Claire is a bit of a hoarder due to trauma, and the script uses this obsession as a metaphor for letting things, both physical and emotional, go.

In fact, most of the 19 songs are extended metaphors. The characters may be singing about visiting the Met, but they’re actually dealing with the universal struggles of young adulthood. The rooftop duet near the end of the show, in particular, resonates with emotional depth, as all of the characters grapple with letting go and moving forward.

The stakes may feel low for those of us who have already gone through the whirlwind of our 20s, and Warren and Deb make sure we understand that’s the point of the show in the closing number.

All of us are looking for someone to make this lonely journey of life a little easier. The show wants us to find the beauty in the ordinary and the sublime in the commonplace; MTG’s production of “Ordinary Days” does just that.

“Ordinary Days” runs about 80 minutes with no intermission. Please note, the show contains adult language.

If You’re Going


WHO: Musical Theatre Guild of Butler

WHAT: “Ordinary Days”

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, April 19 and 20 as well as April 26 and 27, and at 3 p.m. Sunday, April 21

WHERE: William A. Lehnerd Performance Hall in Butler Memorial Park

TICKETS: $18 at mtgbutler.org

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