Tasting Notes. Book by Charlie Ryall, Music by Richard Baker, lyrics by Ryall and Baker. Southwark Playhouse, 77 Newington Causeway, London SE 1 to 27 August 2022. 2**. William Russell

The best thing about this overlong musical is the book which is a nice mix of Groundhog Day and La Ronde in that we get the same day in the lives of a group of people who either run or go to a wine bar repeated over and over again focusing on a different person each time. The problem is that the score is weak and the director has failed to keep the momentum going so that as each version of events starts yet again one starts to tired of the whole thing – what happens is not all that interesting anyway – and Ryall’s big surprise at the end is frankly preposterous. As usual the cast can speak sing but actually singing defeats them all with the exception of Stephen Hoo, the widower drowning his sorrows and whose suicide shocks everyone. He can hold a tune.

Musicals without melodies are, of course, commonplace but this one, even in an overcrowded field, stands out as particularly dreary. It has its moments, if worked on – drastic cutting would certainly help. Everyone works hard, but they cannot save the day from tedium – and things are not helped by the necessity for some double casting. Hoo, for instance, gets to play a homophobic customer who attacks the gay waiter and Oliver (Sam Ransome), the cat loving nerd who cannot bring up the courage to ask the actress waitress for a date,gets to play the Hungarian dish water’s son who is involved in a totally pointless sub plot. If there is a wine bar in the land to avoid LJ’s as it is called is it hard as its proprietor (Nancy Zamit) tries to inject some energy into the goings on. As for Ryall, who plays Maggie the not getting work actress waitress fancied by Oliver, she gets what sounds like the show’s big song to sing at her audition but she doesn’t get to finish it – or the job. The yobbo customer who quaffs the wine in a gulp – the gimmick is this is a tasting bar – and the one who orders ice with her Malbec, however, are nice touches. But for me – I am going to the pub.

Joe: Stephen Hoo.

George: Sam Kipling.

Eszter: Wendy Morgan.

Oliver: Niall Ransome.

Maggie: Charlie Ryall.

LJ: Nancy Zamit.

Directot: Shelley Williams.

Choreography: Will Peach.

Intimacy Co-ordinator: Gareth Taylor.

Lighting Designer: Alex Musgrave.

Set Designer: Justin Williams.

Production photographs: Christ Marchant

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