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A Broadway Rose actress talks about the unconventional musical 'Ordinary Days.'

PHOTO: CRAIG MITCHELLDYER - Kailey Rhodes and Benjamin Tissell star in Broadway Rose's production of "Ordinary Days."
To call "Ordinary Days" a musical would be coming up just a little bit short, according to actress Kailey Rhodes.

"This is more of an art installation, I think, in a lot of ways," said Rhodes, who plays the role of Claire in Broadway Rose's production of the show. "The way we tell the story, the way we interact with each other and the music. The way we interact with the set, and the set interacts with us … this is closer to an 85-minute piece of performance art than a musical."

"Ordinary Days" tells the story of four young New Yorkers, and how one overlapping event changes the course of each of their lives. Besides the piano player, who is onstage through the entire show, the musical has just four characters: Claire, played by Rhodes; her boyfriend Jason, played by Benjamin Tissell; cynical grad student Deb, played by Quinlan Fitzgerald; and Deb's cheerful new friend Warren, played by Seth M. Renne.

Broadway Rose staff members first encountered the musical at a festival 10 years ago, and have had it in their sights ever since.

"We fell in love with the show at that time," said Alan Anderson, the theater company's marketing director. "It was moving, it was fresh. it was always in our desire to produce the show one day. We just had to find the right time, and this was the year that we could do a new work without an existing following."

When preparing for this year's general auditions for Broadway Rose, Rhodes said she didn't tailor her audition package to "Ordinary Days."

"I don't think I let myself hope for 'Ordinary Days,'" she said. "Because it's only two women. To hope for that felt a little scary."

Rhodes said she was delighted to be cast as Claire, whom she called a "beautifully complex and vulnerable character."

Originally from Macon, Ga., Rhodes moved to Portland with her husband in 2014, after realizing the city met their wish list: "Food, music, theater, progressiveness, pedestrian-friendly, not in the middle of nothing geographically." She has starred in many productions around the Portland area since, including in an all-female production of "The Importance of Being Earnest" at Artists Repertory Theatre and "Gypsy" at Broadway Rose.

"Ordinary Days" has the smallest cast of any of Rhodes's productions. She said that being part of such a small group — especially in a show that requires displays of emotion and vulnerability — has brought the four actors together.

"Everybody in it elevates the work of everyone else," she said. "By the end of the show, it's this frenetic, pulsing vibrant thing that we're all here for."

Almost all of the dialogue in "Ordinary Days" is sung, and each character performs several songs. Although the performers each have their own songs to master, director Isaac Lamb required them all to attend each rehearsal, rather than holding separate sessions. Rhodes used the metaphor of a human cell to describe the dynamic among the cast, with the piano at the stage's center being the nucleus.

"We're these electrons orbiting this nucleus, and we're very aware of the other three pieces of energy, onstage or offstage," she said. "We're very connected because of the work that Isaac has had us do. We've done a lot of investing in each other and in the piece."

Broadway Rose is known for producing a lot of high-energy, showstopping musicals — Rhodes said she was drawn to the theater company because of its "devotion to the art of the musical." "Ordinary Days" is more understated and narrow in scope than most classic works.

"This is not a song-and-dance musical," Rhodes said. "There are no flashy costumes, no dance numbers, no glitter. If you love those things, you need to see this, too. It is an opportunity to love musicals even more fully."

The climax of the show comes near the end, when Claire reveals a tragic part of her past in the show's second-to-last song.

"it's a very vulnerable, raw moment," she said, "and it's the moment in the show where, for me, I realized that I need to move through the world with more grace for people, because I don't always know what they're carrying."

As the 85-minute show comes to an end, Rhodes said, "it will feel very seamless."

"It's four very distinct storylines, but you may not be able to tell where one starts and where one stops."

"Ordinary Days" runs from Sept. 20 through Oct. 14 at Broadway Rose's New Stage in Tigard. For tickets and more information, visit broadwayrose.org or call 503-620-5262.

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