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“The Most Beautiful Room in New York”

Long Wharf Theatre

 

“The Most Beautiful Room in New York,” Long Wharf Theatre’s sadly unfulfilled new musical, with book and lyrics by Adam Gopnik and music by David Shire, is something of a missed opportunity.  This new show features a mostly appealing cast and David Shire’s music, at least in the first act, can be very tuneful and melodic, in the way his score sparkled in the 1983 musical, “Baby.”  But something is definitely amiss here.  “The Most Beautiful Room in New York,” starts out promisingly, with accomplished performances by Matt Bogart and Anastasia Barzee, as owners of a struggling, family-owned restaurant in New York, but, by the beginning of Act II, it is all downhill from there.

One of the problems in the show is that its third leading performer, Constantine Maroulis, while singing and acting well, plays a generally unpleasant character.  This character can help save the restaurant financially, but at a steep cost to the family’s ideals.  Unfortunately, once the family’s ideals start to get compromised, “The Most Beautiful Room in New York,” as a whole, takes a disastrous turn, and it never quite recovers.

Still, let’s focus on the assets that the musical does possess, at least in the first half of the show.  Matt Bogart plays David, the owner of a restaurant in Union Square, called Table.  Anastasia Barzee portrays Claire, his wife, who helps co-run the restaurant.  Both actors give pleasurable performances and they make a great pair.  Thanks to nice songs, with music by the accomplished David Shire, Bogart and Barzee each get their chance to shine.  The opening song for the two characters, “Your Table Will Always Be Waiting,” is quite catchy, and establishes the admirable aims they have at running a restaurant.  Barzee is further blessed with a solo called, “Planet David in the Stars” and Bogart duets wonderfully with his daughter Kate (the sweet Sawyer Niehaus) in the lovely title song.

It is most discouraging, then, that the character of Sergio, played by Constantine Moroulis, comes upon the scene, promising David that he can provide the money to keep the restaurant, Table, in business.  Not to give too much away, but Sergio also had some kind of connection with Claire, which is rather murky and only gradually gets revealed.  Moroulis’ Sergio represents everything that David and Claire despise in running a business and, once they begin to contemplate selling out, “The Most Beautiful Room in New York,” starts to lose what charms it does possess.

There are a whole host of other characters in the show, including the delightful Danielle Ferland, as Gloria, whom, with her partner Phoebe (the spirited Darlesia Cearcy), run a marketplace stand, and they share the same goals as David and Claire.  Kristina Alabado, Ryan Duncan, Tyler Jones, and Mark Nelson also do quite nicely in the show, in supporting roles.  But, as Sergio’s accomplices, Anne Horak, playing Natasha, and Allan K. Washington, as realtor Gabe, these two actors are saddled with unsympathetic roles and they have to fight an uphill battle to try to win the audience over.

Unfortunately, once intermission is over, “The Most Beautiful Room in New York” ultimately goes off the deep end and never really finds its footing again, despite an attempt at a hopeful finale.  Most of what doesn’t work in this musical revolves around Constantine Maroulis’ Sergio, whose character becomes more and more vile as the evening goes on.  So, for all the catchy music that David Shire can provide (with orchestrations by Jonathan Tunick, no less) and attractive sets by Michael Yeargan and colorful costumes by Jess Goldstein, director Gordon Edelstein’s production fights a losing battle.  The book by Adam Gobnik seems to be the main problem in Act II, with some rather lame references to current politics thrown in, to little effect.

This is most unfortunate because “The Most Beautiful Room in New York” starts off so appealingly, that one wants to see the musical succeed.  But that is not to be.  There is only so much that these Grade A collaborators (including John McDaniel as music director and John Carrafa doing the musical staging) can achieve and it simply doesn’t make it.  Incidentally, this musical was originally called “Table,” in reference to the restaurant that David and Claire run, and it occurred to me that perhaps they should have kept that name as the title.  This is because all the elements that work in this new musical at Long Wharf Theatre have everything to do with that restaurant and the ideals that David and Claire initially cling to.

“The Most Beautiful Room in New York” continues performances at Long Wharf Theatre in New Haven, CT through May 28, 2017.  For tickets, please visit www.longwharf.org or call the box office at 203-787-4282.

Photo: The Company

Photo by T. Charles Erickson

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