Saturday, May 21, 2022

Join our email blast

Center Stage

Tallgrass Dream Project showcases Cloris Award-winning talent


Savor the wonderful nuances, modern relevance and lyrical wit imbued in “Ordinary Days” at the Rex Mathes auditorium.

The cast of “Ordinary Days,” from left: Taylor Weaver, Charlie Reese, Keaton Lane and Sydney Allen. Photo credit: Dylan Heuer

Mentioning musical theater to someone often evokes images of lavish costuming, intricate production numbers filling the stage and rafter-rattling musical numbers. The past few decades have ushered in a counter-appeal to the big Broadway musical. These new musicals often have small casts which seductively draw their audiences into contemporary themes. “Ordinary Days” is such a musical and is the latest offering through Tallgrass Theatre Company’s unique Dream Project.

The Dream Project premise is simple. Candidates submit proposals to the Tallgrass Theatre Company for consideration of their dream show. This allows regional performing artists to control the production choice, which is not the case with the traditional producers’ model. Traditionally, actors hope that a new season will hold a show that fits their passion, be it the show, the time in their performing career, or even fitting into their work schedule. Yes, Virginia, virtually all who perform in area shows volunteer their time. And, yes, there is a Santa Claus, thanks to Tallgrass.

“ ‘Ordinary Days’ is an intimate, heartfelt look at the ways in which four young people connect and intersect in a city of 8 million people,” explains the production’s director and choreographer, Megan Helmers. “Some know each other, some are meeting for the first time, and some will never meet, but each of them comes to affect the others’ lives in some way — whether they know it or not.”

Adam Gwon, the “Ordinary Days” lyricist and composer, is a musical theater writer named as one of “50 to Watch” by The Dramatist magazine and hailed as “a promising newcomer to our talent-hungry musical theater,” by the New York Times. “Ordinary Days” has been described as “refreshingly honest and funny.”

CNA - Stop HIV Iowa

When asked about her diverse and eclectic performing arts career, Helmers said that “a diverse background in the performing arts has led me to this project in interesting ways. ‘Ordinary Days’ is only the second musical Tallgrass has produced. In their first musical, ‘Eating Raoul’ (2013), Charlie (Reese) and I played opposite each other in the lead roles. Since then I’ve done much more directing and choreographing than performing.”

This show will feature a quartet of dynamic musical theater performers, including Reese, who is a Cloris Awards winner for his role as Dr. Frankenstein in the Des Moines Playhouse’s “Young Frankenstein.” Helmers, herself a Cloris Award winner for her choreography in Des Moines Young Artists’ Theatre’s “Bring It On The Musical,” offered, “Charlie is really terrific at exploring what’s beneath the text. His face is so expressive that you know at a glance what his character is thinking.” She added, “I’m happy to say we have not just one, but four incredible voices in our cast. Taylor Weaver, Sydney Allen and Keaton Lane are playing Claire, Deb and Warren, and when you add Charlie (Jason) to the mix, I think the audience will be blown away by the talent in this production.”

Thanks to the vision of the Tallgrass team and the talents of Megan Helmers and her cast, you won’t have to travel to one of 200-plus other international productions of “Ordinary Days,” including shows in Japan, Australia, South America and Poland. You can savor the wonderful nuances, modern relevance and lyrical wit imbued in Gwon’s memorable “Ordinary Days” at the Tallgrass Theatre Company’s home, the Rex Mathes auditorium, 1401 Vine St., West Des Moines. This intimate performing venue has been praised by its audiences for the wonderful performance experiences it delivers, and a musical such as this should, indeed, be a “Dream” to experience. For more information, visit

Overheard in the Lobby – shows aplenty

“Triple Espresso,” Temple for Performing Arts (now through Jan. 13); “The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane,” Des Moines Playhouse, Kate Goldman Children’s Theatre (Jan. 4-20); “The Elevator Family,” Ankeny Community Theatre, Studio Series (Jan. 19-21); “Sex Tips for Straight Women from a Gay Man,” Temple for Performing Arts (Jan. 22 – Feb. 10); “H.O.P.E. Drama Troupe,” original 25-minute scripted performance by teens to reach teens about child abuse, Des Moines Young Artists’ Theatre (Jan 22); “Baskerville, A Sherlock Holmes Mystery,” Des Moines Playhouse (Jan. 25 – Feb. 10). ♦

John Busbee is a creative project developer, critic, playwright, author, producer and media professional. He has produced his weekly show, The Culture Buzz, on KFMG since 2007.

Post a Comment

Your email address will not be published.