Connecticut Theater Review: ‘The Most Beautiful Room in New York’ by Adam Gopnik, David Shire

Anastasia Barzee, Matt Bogart, Constantine Maroulis, Mark Nelson, Tyler Jones, Krystina Alabado, Darlesia Cearcy, Danielle Ferland, Anne Horak, Sawyer Niehaus, Allan Washington, Ryan Duncan.

Running a nice little family restaurant in New York isn’t what it used to be, what with spiking rent prices, competition with hipster eateries and ever-changing food tastes. These and more are the issues facing the owners of Table, the homey establishment at the heart of the Long Wharf Theater’s world premiere of “The Most Beautiful Room in New York,” a pleasant but overstuffed, not-yet-satisfying musical by New Yorker writer Adam Gopnik and Broadway musical vet David Shire. There’s certainly plenty to chew on here — including an abundance of food-as-life metaphors — but sometimes less of a full plate is advisable for a show with a straightforward, family-first theme.

The idea of trying to find a middle ground in a rapidly changing world of tech, commerce and ever-shifting identities remains relevant and relatable, but first you need compelling characters to care about. Here there’s the generically nice family of chef David (Matt Bogart, a late-in-rehearsal replacement), his wife and front-of-house-manager Claire (Anastasia Barzee), their teenage son Bix (Tyler Jones) and young daughter Phoebe (Sawyer Niehaus).

Things are enlivened when David, in desperate financial straits because of a soaring rent increase, asks help from former business partner Sergio (Constantine Maroulis, delicious as he is devilish). Sergio now heads a food empire and could use the street cred of David’s respected position in the Union Square market community. Complicating matters: Sergio (“I may be a bad boy, but I’m not a bad guy”) had a long-ago fling with Claire. Their connection gets reheated when he returns to turn the Table in more ways than one.

Providing contrasting food/life philosophy is Carlo (Mark Nelson in endearing comic-sage mode), who runs Anarchist Pizza in Bensonhurst, where David grew up. Carlo’s daughter Anna (Krystina Alabado) meets Bix, who shows up during a cheese delivery, and next-gen romance blooms in its own quirky way.

The theme-setting opener “Something’s Growing” gets the show off to a bland start, and a few tunes (“What Do We Do Now?” “Lucky”) do little but add to a lengthy running time. There’s more zip in the second act, which opens with the clever “There’s Always a Wait for Your Table” (led by a nicely icy Anne Horak as the new reservation czarina). But it takes quite a long while to resolve issues and arrive at the show’s warmhearted conclusion.

Shire’s tunes have a confident, cosmopolitan glide that eases from jazz to blues to ballads, and Gopnik’s lyrics have a deft, playful touch. Jonathan Tunick’s orchestrations are sublime in their understatement, making the most out of the fine seven-piece band led by music director John McDaniel.

But in this premiere production, staged by Gordon Edelstein, the strongest numbers are given to secondary characters. Darlesia Cearcy, as cheese-vender Phoebe, lets loose as she warns David of the inevitable in “Market Forces”; Carlo’s pizza-centric advice to David in “Slice of Life” is a highlight, as is Sergio’s seductive “And Then I’ll Go.” The teens are charming in the sweetly awkward “So, Like Maybe,” and the father-daughter duet “It’s Never Raining In Seattle” proves powerful emotions are best delivered quietly.

In its current form, “The Most Beautiful Room in New York” needs more vividness in its leads and some significant editing if it hopes to move forward. Right now, it’s a musical meal that, despite some tasty bits, still leaves you hungry.

Connecticut Theater Review: 'The Most Beautiful Room in New York' by Adam Gopnik, David Shire

Long Wharf Theater, New Haven, Conn.; 408 seats; $91 top. Opened, reviewed May 10, 2017. Runs through May 28. Running time: 2 HOURS, 40 MINS.

Production: A Long Wharf Theater presentation of a musical in two acts with a book by Adam Gopnik, music by David Shire and lyrics by Gopnik.

Creative: Directed by Gordon Edelstein. Choreographed by John Carrafa. Sets, Michael Yeargan; costumes, Jess Goldstein; lighting, Christopher Akerlind; sound, Keith Caggiano; music director and supervisor, John McDaniel; orchestrations, Jonathan Tunick; production stage manager, Linda Marvel.

Cast: Anastasia Barzee, Matt Bogart, Constantine Maroulis, Mark Nelson, Tyler Jones, Krystina Alabado, Darlesia Cearcy, Danielle Ferland, Anne Horak, Sawyer Niehaus, Allan Washington, Ryan Duncan.

More Legit

  • All My Sons review

    Broadway Review: 'All My Sons' With Annette Bening

    Don’t be fooled by the placid backyard setting, neighborly small talk and father-son joviality at the start of the Roundabout Theatre Company’s blistering revival of Arthur Miller’s “All My Sons” starring Annette Bening and Tracy Letts. There are plenty of secrets, resentments and disillusionments ahead, poised to rip this sunny Middle Americana facade to shreds. [...]

  • A still image from The Seven

    How Magic Leap, Video Games Are Defining Future of Royal Shakespeare Company

    At the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford upon Avon, Sarah Ellis has the difficult job of figuring out where theater of the 1500s fits into the 21st century. As Director of Digital Development, a title which might seem out of place in an industry ruled by live, human performances, Ellis represents a recent seachange on [...]

  • Gary review

    Broadway Review: 'Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus' With Nathan Lane

    Nathan Lane and Kristine Nielsen, two of the funniest people on the face of the earth, play street cleaners tasked with carting away the dead after the civil wars that brought down the Roman Empire. Well, a job’s a job, and Gary (Lane) and Janice (Nielsen) go about their disgusting work without complaint. “Long story [...]

  • Laurie Metcalf, John Lithgow'Hillary and Clinton'

    Why John Lithgow Worried About Starring in Broadway's 'Hillary and Clinton'

    When Lucas Hnath first conceived of “Hillary and Clinton” in 2008, he was writing for and about a very different America. Now, a total reimagining of the show has made its way to Broadway with Laurie Metcalf and John Lithgow in the titular roles. At the opening on Thursday night, the cast and creatives talked [...]

  • Three Sisters review

    London Theater Review: 'Three Sisters'

    Ennui has become exhaustion in playwright Cordelia Lynn’s new version of “Three Sisters.” The word recurs and recurs. Everyone on the Prozorov estate is worn out; too “overworked” to do anything but sit around idle. Are they killing time or is time killing them? Either way, a play often framed as a study of boredom [...]

  • Patrick Page, Amber Grey, Eva Noblezada,

    'Hadestown' Took 12 Years to Get to Broadway, but It's More Relevant Than Ever

    When “Hadestown” was first staged as a tiny, DIY theater project in Vermont, those involved could never have predicted that it was the start of a 12-year journey to Broadway — or how painfully relevant it would be when it arrived. At Wednesday night’s opening at the Walter Kerr Theatre, the cast and creatives discussed [...]

  • Hillary and Clinton review

    Broadway Review: Laurie Metcalf and John Lithgow in 'Hillary and Clinton'

    If anyone could play Hillary Clinton, it’s Laurie Metcalf – and here she is, in Lucas Hnath’s “Hillary and Clinton,” giving a performance that feels painfully honest and true. And if anyone could capture Bill Clinton’s feckless but irresistible charm, that would be John Lithgow – and here he is, too. Who better to work [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content