Cabaret Theatre follows friends chasing big dreams

Just in time for the holidays, Cabaret Theatre will debut its production of "Ordinary Days" on Friday, a musical packed with a number of vibrant performances, relatable moments and laughs.

The musical tells the story of four characters trying to achieve their “big picture” or dream in New York City. The plot illustrates how young people who lead completely different lives can connect in unexpected ways. The story revolves around a cast who are all played by Rutgers students with a gift for singing and performing. 

Director David Novis believes this musical will resonate with audiences “by nature of the sort of optimistic tone of the show” and gives a message that despite all the negativity and obstacles that we may find in life, “things will be okay.”

The musical is introduced by protagonist Warren, a wide-eyed optimist singing about his life as a cat sitter for an incarcerated artist that’s left him feeling alone in a big, intimidating city. He walks around New York with a bag full of posters designed with inspiring messages. 

His story fatefully collides with Deb, a pessimistic and sarcastic graduate student, after he locates her thesis notes and immediately tries to befriend her. The couple, Jason and Claire, hit roadblocks in their relationship after moving in together leads them to realize they have different priorities. As Jason, a romantic, laid-back lover clashes with Claire, someone who is confused about what she wants out of love, the show explores themes of infatuation and compatibility in a relationship. 

Every scene is emotive, and the show is filled with moments of frustration, hopefulness, joy and desperation. By using music and dance as a creative outlet, the actors execute exceptional character development throughout the story and opened themselves up to the audience. 

The theme of the show comes full circle in the closing scene when all of the characters come together and sing in unison with a song that describes how their lives overlap. The characters resolve their conflicts through self-reflection and by following their hearts, which can inspire those who feel grounded in their misery and hopelessness in the process of achieving their dreams.

Regarding production, the vision for the show is executed flawlessly, even with a small set and limited props. Different scenes play out on the main stage with swift transitions and costume changes. The undeniable chemistry of the actors transcend behind the scenes, and Novis called directing the musical a unique career experience. 

“It was unusual compared to anything I’ve done before,” Novis said. “I got to get really close with the people I got to work with (because of) the nature of the show.”

Although the show has dark moments, the overall message of the story is positive and uplifting. The characters are relatable and although their problems may seem insignificant in a big city, their story sheds light on individual lives that cross paths for the better. 

To many, moving to New York City may seem like a big dream. “Ordinary Days” represents the familiar narrative of young lives struggling to find their place. Jason and Claire decide to embark on their journey together, while Deb and Warren spontaneously cross paths, and despite their contrasting outlooks on life, become friends. 

The musical is showing through the weekend so be sure to catch Larrej Drayton, a Mason Gross School of the Arts junior as Warren. Nisa Betancourt, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore, portrays Deb. Jonah Levinson, a School of Arts and Sciences senior, plays Jason, and Brooke Barkdull, a Mason Gross School of the Arts junior, represents Claire in “Ordinary Days." 

While you’re there, don’t forget to grab a copy of one of Warren’s inspirational posters. They should be scattered all around Fifth Avenue.

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