“Waitress: The sweetest slice of Broadway pie in London”
What is it about?
Waitress tells the story of Jenna Hunterson, a waitress (the name of the musical is a give away for this) who dreams of a way out of her small-town life and abusive marriage. She pours herself into every one of her heavenly creations with pies that mirror her rollercoaster life.
A baking contest and a potential new love interest show Jenna that a fresh start could be on the cards. If she finds the courage to seize it. She can write the perfect recipe for her Everything’s Just Peachy Peachy Keen Pie, but can she write the perfect recipe for her own happiness?
The show is based on the 2007 film of the same name, written by Adrienne Shelly. The book is written by Jessie Nelson and the music and lyrics are written by Sara Bareilles. Directed by Diane Paulus and choreographed by Lorin Latarro. Yep. An all-female team is responsible for baking Waitress into the success it is today.
What did I think?
I absolutely loved it. If you’ve read my five musicals I want to see post, you’ll already know how much I wanted to see this musical. I had high expectations and it exceeded every single one of them. Not only did it do the soundtrack justice but it shone a whole new light on some of the songs. I will never be able to listen to Bad Idea (Reprise) in the same way again. Nor did I anticipate to be full-on ugly crying from the start of Take It From an Old Man until the end of the show.
The show has some really clever moments laced into it. Whenever something happens to Jenna, she conjures up a new pie recipe in her head, and these scenes were some of my favourites. With strategic lighting and distortions to the sound, it really felt like you were inside Jenna’s head with her as she explained what ingredients said pie contained and why. You were pulled back into reality with her as the lighting and sound returned to normal.
Another thing that really stood out for me was the house band being on stage with the cast and not underneath it. They remained in the corner of The Diner and would appear on and off stage as the set changed. It was certainly nothing I’d seen before and gave them the appreciation they deserved, as well as giving a certain gravitas to the songs.
American actor Katherine McPhee who has already played the role of Jenna on Broadway reprises the role to make her Westend debut and I don’t think they could’ve picked a more perfect Jenna. Kat’s voice is breathtakingly good and she plays the part of small town girl with big dreams perfectly.
Laura Baldwin and Marisha Wallace take on the roles of Dawn and Becky respectively. Dawn’s overly neurotic personality is both hilarious and relatable and Becky’s ‘I don’t take no shit from no one’ attitude was the perfect balancing act as Jenna’s other companion. The three of them worked really well together. Except for when they’re at Joe’s Diner, ignoring all actual work-related instructions from their boss, Cal.
David Hunter played the part of Dr Jim Pomatter, Jenna’s adorably nervous, married doctor. The character was so endearing and sweet that you couldn’t help but root for him, even though he spent most of the show cheating on his wife. Hunter was an incredible fit for the role, nailing the awkward comedic timing and overly clumsy nature of Dr Pomatter.
A character I wasn’t expecting to love as much as I did was Ogi, played by Jack McBrayer. Yes, the same Jack McBrayer who played Fix-It Felix Jr in Wreck It Ralph. He was hilarious! I got an actual stomach ache from laughing so much at him, as did the rest of the audience I’m sure. He sounds like, looks like and acts exactly like Fix-It Felix Jr and it really worked for the role of Ogi: an extremely peculiar man who falls in love with Dawn and doesn’t care who knows about it.
The songs for this musical are so well thought out and brilliantly put together. Before going into the theatre my favourites were Bad Idea (because of this performance, daaaamn!), You Matter To Me and She Used To Be Mine. All of which remained when I left the Adelphi Theatre. These songs were exactly what I expected them to be.
However, the added visuals and a clearer sense of the story behind them enabled me to see some of the songs in a new light. It Only Takes a Taste was the song in which Jenna and Dr Pomatter talk about more than how she doesn’t want the baby she’s knocked up with. The song gives us the chance to get to know Dr Pomatter a little better (and fall even more in love with him.)
As I mentioned earlier, Take It From an Old Man was the point in which I lost my composure. It was the transition of Joe from grumpy old man to the sweet and caring, somewhat fatherly figure in Jenna’s life. And it set-up his surprise at the end of the show so well. I won’t give away any more than that though, I don’t want to spoil it.
Special shout-out to The Negative. I know its a song about a pregnancy test, but it really appeals to the pessimist in me with all it’s talk about focussing on the negative.
So, would I recommend it?
Yes. I couldn’t recommend it enough. Waitress is the perfect feel-good musical and if you have the opportunity to go, you would be a fool to pass up on it. It’s the perfect balance of heart-warming and hilarious while subverting the sweet expectations you may hold. I’m already trying to work out how I can get myself to a second showing.