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Music Review

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Our Table
A New Musical
Live at Feinstein's / 54 Below

Music: David Shire
Lyrics: Adam Gopnik
Book: Adam Gopnik
Performed by: Constantine Maroulis, Melissa Errico and Andy Taylor
Label: Broadway Records
RRP: £12.99
Release Date: 19 July 2020

It’s always a pleasure to get a new cast recording to review, and especially so from Broadway Records. This one is slightly different, as it’s a concert version, recorded at the wonderful Feinstein’s/54 Below, but is none the less, still an interesting listen.

Recorded live on a January night in 2019, Our Table: A New Musical tells the story of a beloved New York restaurant fighting for its life, has never been more relevant than now, when the entire New York restaurant industry is fighting for its life. To further the event and deepen its meanings, Broadway Records and the creative team of Our Table have chosen to partner for the release with GrowNYC, the parent organization of New York’s Greenmarket, to help support both the farmers who bring good things to New York and the chefs who depend on them for sustenance and materials - and to celebrate, as well the fiftieth anniversary of the New York City greenmarket movement.

The release also marks the 60th year in the New York musical theatre career and tenth original musical of David Shire. Previously best known for his collaborations with Richard Maltby Jr., Our Table is his first collaboration with Gopnik, whose writings he had long admired and who agreed to join in this adaptation of themes and scenes from his book on the philosophy of food, The Table Comes First and his story of a New York family, Through The Children’s Gate. (Keeping everything ‘in the family’ it was Maltby who directed the 54 performance!) To further celebrate Shire, his longtime muse Liz Callaway and Tony-winner Alice Ripley joined the cast to record an additional bonus track, the Shire-Gopnik hymn to the many marriages we make in life, 'Lucky!' – a highlight from the Our Table score but cut from the 54 Evening.

Our Table, narrated by Adam Gopnik, was inspired by the real lives of two New York cooking couples - Peter and Susan Hoffman of Savoy and David and Karen Waltuck of Chanterelle. It tells the story of the Kaplan family, father and chef David, mother and host Claire, and their two children, Bix and Katie, who live with them ‘above the store’ in their small, much loved Union Square restaurant Table – “the most beautiful room in New York,” as Alice Waters once called it. When its existence is threatened with closure by real-estate development, Claire and David turn to their old partner and estranged best friend, super-star television bad boy chef, Sergio Momesso, to try and rescue their home and beloved restaurant.

The show displays Shire’s musical gifts in their usual abundance, with a new jazz-inflected New York lilt. Adam Gopnik brings his genius for capturing real life New York narratives while expressing them with a deft linguistic shimmer - his trademarks in The New Yorker Magazine for the past thirty-five years - to both the show’s lyrics and to his spontaneous narration of its story. The inimitable and sublime Melissa Errico, for whom the part was written, takes the role of ex- ballerina Claire, while her frequent co-star Andy Taylor plays David, and the unforgettably rakish Constantine Maroulis brings devilish flair to the role of Sergio. Mark Nelson offers a comic tour de force as Carlo the anarchist pizza maker - and Melissa’s own daughter, Juliette McEnroe, makes her Broadway Records debut in the role of her daughter Katie! Rounding out the cast are Tyler Jones (The Book of Mormon) and Analise Scarpaci (Mrs. Doubtfire). From Springsteen style New Jersey rock ballads - 'Doo Wop Motel' - to elegant Sondheimian scene-songs - 'Chopping Onions/Folding Napkins' - the score throughout shows off Shire’s evergreen genius at its prolific and varied best.

This is a beautifully crafted musical, and works really well as a concert version - there has clearly been a lot of though put into the evening, and into the recording in general. Shire’s music is enchanting, and the book and lyrics clever. Of the cast, as you would probably expect, Errico shines brightly, as she always does. I also though the performance by Andy Taylor as David was excellent - his delivery of ‘Restaurant Round The Corner’ was definitely a highlight for me. It’s actually a uniformly strong cast, suited well to their roles.

Lyrically, the songs are functional, and perhaps don’t always stack up against the strong score by Shire. That’s not to say there aren’t flashes of brilliance - 'Espresso' is a stand-out for one. But for me Shire’s music excels, and made this recording for me. As well as the previously mentioned ‘Restaurant Round The Corner’ I also loved ‘David’ which is Errico’s chance to shine, and she does, and ‘I See Claire’. I would really love to hear this album fully orchestrated, as there are some super numbers here that don’t always soar as much as they might with just a trio for accompaniment.

A worthy recording of a musical that shows promise.


Ian Gude

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