Waitress the musical opened at the Paramount Theatre Tuesday. It’s a sweet musical, based on the original film, and delivers a sweet message. It is fun and provides a light-hearted escape from the pressures of life.
The storyline is simple. It takes place in the southern part of the United States at a local diner that specializes in homemade pies. The diner is run by a man named Cal and three women work there as waitresses; Becky (a no-nonsense type of gal), Dawn (a nerdy type that doesn’t have much experience with men) and Jenna, the woman that makes the pies. Jenna’s hand has been guided by the spirit of her mother, who taught her how to channel special pie ingredients to fit any subject or occasion. Jenna is caught in an abusive relationship with her husband Earl, when she finds out that she is pregnant. After a meeting with her new gynecologist Dr. Pomatter, the two start an affair despite both being married to other people. Jenna pins her dreams on entering a Pie-Baking Contest, so that she can earn the money to leave Earl and give her baby a fresh and secure start in life.
The cast of Waitress are good and do their jobs well. The ensemble all perform decently and collectively harmonize and sing with great enthusiasm. While there are individual songs, most of the voices are above average without being extraordinary. The supporting cast stands out with individual performances. Earl (played by Nick Bailey) is almost a stereotype with accent, language and action as a co-dependent husband, not letting go of the abusive hold he has on his wife. Carl (Ryan Dunkin) plays the surly diner’s fry-cook well enough, but again in a stereotyped way that doesn’t stand out. Dr. Pomatter (played by Bryan Fenkhart) portrays the doctor as a goofy, nervous man. His physical comedy is reminiscent of Jerry Lewis, and that’s not necessarily a compliment. His voice is soft and becomes overshadowed easily, and while the character is important to the storyline, Mr. Fenkhart’s contribution goes unnoticed and could be played by pretty much anyone.
The waitresses themselves do good work. Dawn (played by Lenne Klingaman) does a very good job at being the ‘dorky’ sidekick. She plays the role with zealous awkwardness and nervous energy that the character requires. Her role is mostly to garnish laughs, and she does so without being over-the-top. Jenna (Desi Oakley) has a good voice that easily lends itself to country melodies of the show’s musical roots. Her voice is clear, soft and pleasant to hear. Her acting job is sufficient enough to give the audience understanding of her character’s longing to be on her own, but we wonder as to why it is so difficult for her to leave her husband when he is such a jackass. She is given options about whether to leave or not, but rejects them in a way that is completely baffling to the audience. We want to collective say to her, “Girl, just leave – it ain’t getting any better.”
There are two breakout roles in this show; the waitress Becky, and Dawn’s love interest, Ogie. Becky is played by Charity Angel Dawson and she does a great job. Her waitress is sassy, no-nonsense, and possess just enough attitude to let us know she is in complete control at all times. Her voice is strong and when she lets it out in “I Didn’t Plan It”, she lets us know, she means business.
The lovable goof character Ogie is the standout, breakaway, hands-down memorable performance of this show. His enthusiasm is way over the top which is precisely what this character calls for. His energy is unbound and his voice is strong when it comes his time to shine in the song “Never Ever Getting Rid of Me”. His slight build helps with his physical comedy and stage appearance giving him a strong presence for a comical performance.
The musical Waitress is fun and light-hearted. The music and lyrics are good and are easily enjoyable at the time, but there’s nothing that really sticks in the mind, or (reminiscently) causes the toes to tap moments after the songs are over. The storyline appears predictable but has enough little twists to add surprise, and to keep the attention of those in observance. It’s a fun, sweet show that gives momentary escape and enjoyment.
Waitress the musical opened on Broadway on April 24, 2016, and, as it approaches it’s 1000 performance, is still playing on The Great White Way. It was nominated for four Tony Awards (including Best Actor in a Musical – Christopher Fitzgerald – Ogie, and Best Actress in a Musical – Jesse Mueller – Jenna). Waitress is based on the 2007 film starring Keri Russell as Jenna. Get tickets and more info here.