By Nicole Itkin

When the show was over, when the actors walked off stage, when the set was still and quiet, I sat in the audience and looked at the stage, wanting the characters to come back.

The five women in Winesday the Musical–Winter (Debra Thaïs Evans), Molly (Amanda Lea Lavergne), Jess (Dawn Cantwell), Sammie (Jennifer Diamond), and Vanessa (Shannen Hofheimer)–are personalities, jammed together on a couch in a living room. Copies of New Yorkers everywhere. A wine cart. And that’s about it for the set

The five are in Winter’s living room, where they meet every Wednesday under the guise of a book club (and when that fails, a yoga club, a tap dancing club…). Whatever the occasion, they always have a glass (or five) of wine. And they talk–about whatever’s going on, whatever they need to make themselves feel a little better.

The cast is clearly comfortable with each other–making the “book club” feel so real on stage. Whoever isn’t singing chats and whispers as others sing; the direction is fabulous and their reactions to what’s happening on stage are fantastic, so much so that it’s a battle for me to decide who to look at during each scene.

Sammie is the one trying to keep the group together–to keep them moving as a club, as more than just a wine club. But she can’t hide it: what they’re really there to do is drink. And sing about drinking. And sing about their problems. And then drink some more. (Key note: do not go to this show if you have any problems with references to drinking, and drinking too much–it’s a prevalent theme).

The drinks at Winesday the Wine Musical, unsurprisingly, were delicious–supposedly for the actors, definitely for us. We were served drinks four times during the show; both the alcoholic and nonalcoholic options were fun, carefully designed, and delicious. They took great care to make sure everyone got the alcoholic or nonalcoholic option, as they preferred.

Some of the songs aren’t intensely memorable, but they all move the show along. And a few really stick out: like “Wine” and Molly’s “Perfect.” Lavergne’s comedic timing is incredible–every time she started her renditions of “Perfect,” the audience burst out laughing. The naivety, the hope–it all oozes out of her.  Another of my favorites was Cantwell’s stunning performance of “A Blissful Freaking Nap.” Moments before, she had walked into the living room with a sign that said: “I can’t believe we still have to protest this shit.” Here, she sings about how she’d rather take a nap than keep fighting. It’s a beautiful jazzy rendition, with gentle notes of preemptive argumentation: preempting the arguments she knows the others will respond with. It’s equal parts feisty and tired, a song I’d listen to outside of the show.

The show itself was a study into how cyclical problems can be, how they come and go in waves. There’s the  terrible boyfriends, the guest in the basement, the kids, the puppies, and the Christmas shows. Sure, it’s always a new problem, but it’s a bit like yesterdays, like the one in the last scene.

There’s a ton of nice touches throughout the show–the cast’s shirts in the last scene (one read “Screw it”), and the wine steward, who led us through each wine tasting, and then made a guest appearance in the cast’s living room. There’s a dream sequence, and sympathy cards. There’s stuffed barney. There’s tons of wine. And there are five women there for each other.

Don’t go expecting great spectacle or high art–go expecting a sweet show with a unique wine (or nonalcoholic!) tasting to pair with it. It was so different from the world outside–a really nice two hour break.

Winesday: The Wine Tasting Musical: Book and Lyrics by Jenne Wason Music by Joseph Benoit 

CAST: Winter (DEBRA THAÏS EVANS), Molly (AMANDA LEA LAVERGNE), Jess (DAWN CANTWELL), Sammie (JENNIFER DIAMOND), and Vanessa (SHANNEN HOFHEIMER) and Wine Stewart (MICHAEL VALVO)

BAND: Music Conductor/piano (Alec Bart) Guitar/ Bass (Rick Snell) and Drums (Britton Matthews)

The creative team includes Molly Goldberg (Costume Consultant), Kathryn Eader (Lighting Designer), Kimberly S. O’Loughlin (Sound Designer), Merete Muenter (Associate Director/Movement Coordinator), Joseph Benoit (Orchestrator)

Through July 25, 2024, at The Jerry Orbach Theater at The Theater Center located at 210 West 50 Street, the box office number is (212) 921-7862. The musical will play Wednesday at 7:30 PM, Thursday at 5 PM, and Sunday at 1 PM. Tickets include VIP – Grape Escape ($150); Premium – Crushing It ($89/ $79 previews); Regular – Uncorked ($69/ $59 previews). All tickets come with a wine tasting (18+, nonalcoholic tasting options available). Tickets can be purchased by visiting www.winesdaymusical.com (or on Ticketmaster.com/ (800) 653-8000).