Composed by David Shire
Lyrics & Book by Adam Gopnik
Essentially an unabridged performance of the Musical-Comedy, this live concert recording of David Shire’s Our Table is a rising taste sensation across America. The story of a much-beloved New York restaurant which fights for its life during financial uncertainty is painfully relatable across industries right now. Recorded live on a January evening, in the company of fans, friends and Rob Schneider at Manhattan’s sensational new writing and musical venue Feinstein’s/54 Below – this cast recording enables all of those who find themselves without reservations to take a place at the table.
Everyone’s got one, a local restaurant, not a chain, something family-run that doesn’t pander to ‘green’ pizzas, espresso bars and specialised cheeses – yet. TABLE is one such place, run by husband and wife duo chef David and host Claire, with their two kids Bix and Katie. It’s a small-time business, but it’s theirs, and David will do everything he can to maintain this, even at the unknowing cost of his marriage. Desperately seeking aid, David turns to Sergio, a talented chef turned television personality who has placed down his spatula and picked up a marketing gig –the issue is that Sergio only has eyes for reigniting a past romance with Claire.
Adam Gopnik’s lyrics divide the album, composition overarches as an engaging jazz album, with spatters of a traditional musical theatre format. It all sounds marvellous against the 54 Below walls, and the natural tones of vocals may be less than pitch-perfect but have a believability to the unpolished performance. Lyrically this division happens when exposition overcomplicates the narrative. Melissa Errico and Andy Taylor bring a performance element to their vocals as David and Claire, but the script offers little in the way of interaction for the two outside their duet performance Chopping Onions.
Espresso, however, is a pure musical theatre number, expanding on a character and their traits without painting it out by number and verse. Humorous, with nifty lyrics, and a building score which compliments the caffeinated subject matter, while the rest of the cast are having decaf, Mark Nelson is full of vim and vigour. The cast recording capitalises on the liveness of the recording, bouncing off of Shire’s arrangements and excelling at putting the instrumentals to the forefront, greatly accentuating jazz numbers like A Slice of Life, Everyday Dance or Take My Life.
Glaringly, as Our Table looks to the future of small, independent restaurants and family businesses across New York – it inadvertently subverts its primary narrative with a superior one following the love story between Anna and Bix and their ‘green pizzas’. There’s tangible chemistry noted with the pair throughout the album, shifting from the broken, awkward vocals into a powerful rendition of growth in What Do We Do Now. Tyler Jones and Analise Scarpaci have a significant impact, equally as impressive as Errico or Taylor, but the memorability of their numbers and catchier dialogue sequences with Nelson snap the attention quicker. It’s the album’s cardinal sin, and one Gopnik’s writing should have avoided, where our leads numbers become less memorable than the side-tracks.
Serving a full-course for listeners, including two aperitif bonus tracks, the starter, mains and desserts are satisfactory – but the side salads are too much, these additional numbers add little character, suffer from over-saturated writing and bulk out the runtime, bogging down the album and bloating one’s appreciation. With Our Table, you’ll return for second helpings, but it may not quench as much as you thought it would.
Our Table Live at Feinstein’s / 54 Below is available from Broadway Records now