Working in LJ's wine bar, you generally know what to expect: mundane routines, long shifts and questionable customers. One day, though, this isn't just all there is. Tasting Notes is a new musical by Richard Baker and Charlie Ryall that uses the same 24 hours to tell six different stories entwined.
Although she loves her bar, and everything that she's built it to be, LJ (Nancy Zamit) is exhausted with having to hold the place together, and unsure of where to take things next. When a usual customer doesn't appear for a drink- Joe, played by Stephen Hoo- she takes it into her own hands to investigate, with devastating results. Maggie (Charlie Ryall) is striving for the stage as to break away from being a waitress at the bar forever. Her fleeting yet somewhat unsuccessful love affair with colleague Oliver (Niall Ransome) has been reduced to conversation about micro pigs, and after his cat named Wish died, he hasn't been particularly chatty anyway.
George (Sam Kipling) is often a little unreliable as an employee, living in his own flamboyant world as he dances around the bar in brightly coloured shirts, while Eszter (Wendy Morgan) tends to work out the back, and being natively Hungarian, has limited English expression and understanding. Despite act one's retelling of the events, which perhaps didn't hold much weight to begin with, these two characters get their time to shine in act two, and bring more of the humour desired to the piece as their perception of the others is rather amusing.
The set design by Justin Williams is a lovely use of the space given, and easily manipulated so the action can occur, before rewinding to perform the story again. Conceptually, the plot has interesting perspectives, but appears bland in places where elements were not being built upon; it seems as if individually each character could have been explored with more depth as to give them more meaning, rather than just scratching the surface. Focusing on the small gestures and language that differ with each repeat of the same day though, the point of view from varying people make for a fairly thoughtful observation on how every story is distinct.
In terms of a track list, it is set out like a menu, and fronting their songs in turn when performing from the view from inside their head. Lyrically, they dabble with potential, particularly if they were paired with one of the more effectual scenes. However, generally it felt as if there wasn't anything exceptional or extraordinary about them at current.
Overall, Tasting Notes is a sweet little musical, that has the foundations for something more. As with anything though, it all depends on your taste -much like the range of wine on offer at LJ's.