The musical Waitress, based on Adrienne Shelly’s 2007 film of the same name, tells the story of Jenna, a waitress at Joe’s Pie Diner who uses baking as a distraction from her loveless marriage. When Jenna finds herself pregnant and then unexpectedly falling for her gynecologist a pie contest and its’ prize money offer a true opportunity to escape.
It is challenging to write about the show because it wasn’t bad it wasn’t excellent either. Most well know for having an all-female creative team with music and lyrics by Sara Bareilles the show has a decent book and good music but one is left wanting more.
Jenna does not always feel like a fully formed character. We learn in flashbacks about her difficult childhood and see that she still hurts from the loss of her mother but we don’t learn much else about her. When asked why she puts up with her abusive husband she simply responds that he was not always like that. Are we to believe that she accepts his actions because she was witness to that behavior between her father and mother? Perhaps, but something about the way the story unfolds feels doesn’t feel authentic.
Where the show excels is in the music. Bareilles refreshingly blends several musical styles, none of which feels like a traditional Broadway score. “Opening Up” has the most pop sensibility of the songs and nicely underscores at the outset of the show that Jenna herself is completely closed off while the reprise at the end of the show illustrates how much Jenna has changed. There are several other standouts. “When He Sees Me” sung by Jenna’s friend and fellow waitress Dawn, perfectly illustrates the personal anxiety of the human race and “Bad Idea” features some killer handclaps - I am a sucker for handclaps.
The current tour cast is respectable. Leads Desi Oakley (Jenna) and Bryan Fenkart (Dr. Pomatter) have good chemistry. Charity Angel Dawson and Lenne Klingaman prove excellent sidekicks as Jenna's friends and coworkers; both have exceptional comedic timing and serve the necessary purpose of provider lighter moments in a show that touches on darker themes.
Waitress is a well done show. You may not walk out of the theater ready to put it on you top ten list but neither will it be a completely wasted evening. The music stands alone pretty well so give it a listen and if you have the means to see the show give it a try - at the very least seeing the music performed live will be worth it.