Every evening “Brooks Atkinson Theatre” turns into a small Southern diner with smiling staff and a Waitress that bakes the most delicious pies ever! And there’s more! But if you want to get to know it you must visit BroadwayPass to get some great and tickets for it. You won’t regret it.
A common misconception among my friends is that this is a story about a pie-baking competition. On the contrary — this is an emotional, multi-layered show that examines several topics without losing the feel-good vibe.
“Waitress” is a musical with music and lyrics by Sara Bareilles and a book by Jessie Nelson. The musical is based on the 2007 film of the same name, written by Adrienne Shelly. The action is set in a small-town restaurant where Jenna — the main character of ‘Waitress’ works. She is also a master pie-baker, with a taste for cool names like Mermaid Marshmallow pie, Deep (S**t) Dish Blueberry Pie, Berry the B*****it! (my oh my, and a little bit of a taste for bad words, too) Pie and Sweet Victory Pie. She is in an unhappy marriage with her abusive husband Earl (an later gets pregnant by him). Yet, she has the full support of her colleagues from Joe’s Diner — the two other waitresses — Becky and Dawn, and the owner Cal. The interesting thing about them is that they are not just fill in characters but have arcs of their own, adding up to the main story and its diversity. Dawn starts the show with a problematic love life and somewhere at the end of Act 1 meets Ogie, who she later marries. Becky and Cal, on the other hand, start an affair. Cal and Jenna have this great conversation at a later point in the show, where Jenna asks Cal if he is happy while cheating to his significant other, and he answers that he is “Happy enough”.
Jenna also starts an affair of her own. She meets Dr. Jim Pomatter, a new doctor from Connecticut. She gives him a Mermaid pie after her first visit, and herself after the second one. Meanwhile, Earls gets fired and learns that Jenna is pregnant. In his anger, Earl makes her promise that she will not love the child more than him.
With all the love, affairs and relations in general, it is more than obvious that this is the main topic of this musical. We can see this in Dawn and the rather weird Ogie’s puppy love, and Becky and Cal’s new-found love. It is a general part of Jenna’s multiple layers as a character, with her lust for Dr. Pomatter, hatred towards Earl and her life-altering love towards Lulu (her baby). This may also be found in her relations with Joe, the owner of the diner when she tells her about the pie-baking contest, and at later point — leaving the diner to her after his death.
Women empowerment is another of the topics of the musical. The pie-baking contest is the main tool of expressing this. Jenna intended to use the money to get a new life with her child away from Earl (who can be seen as a universal abuser). That is why she starts giving him only half of her earnings, so she can save enough money to enter the competition, but Earl finds them and takes them from her. A lot of women around the world are in the same positions as Jenna and all of them are looking for their pie-baking competition that will set them free from their Earls.
The cast is superb. Jordin Sparks is the “current” Jenna. Jordin made her glorious return to Broadway ten years after her debut in “In the Heights”. She had to step in the rather big shoes of Jessie Mueller. Mueller is one of the best actresses currently on Broadway (and her role in “Beautiful: The Carole King Musical” as Carole just proves it). Then again, so is Jordin Sparks. The child prodigy that won “American Idol’ at the tender age of just 17 is doing a great job and is turning into a performer of the highest caliber. The other actors are nonetheless brilliant. NaTasha Yvette Williams (as Becky), Caitlin Houlahan (Dawn) and Christopher Fitzgerald (her boyfriend turned husband Ogie) did a great job as comic relief. The audience will have a piece of good laugh (along with all the pies) with Becky, Dawn and her odd suitor Ogie. At one point he admits that he loves Dawn “like a table”. The gentlemen are also represented well — Mark Evans as the loving (and cheating) Dr. Jim Pomatter can easily catch the heart of every woman as well as he caught Jenna’s. Ben Thompson’s great acting made Earl even easier to hate.
“Waitress” made history by one curious fact — it became the first-ever Broadway musical to have four women in the four top creative team spots, with a book by Jessie Nelson, choreography by Lorin Latarro, direction by Tony Award-winner Diane Paulus and a score by Tony and Grammy Award-nominated singer-songwriter Sara Bareilles.
Sara Bareilles made her debut in the musical theatre with “Waitress”. She did amazing job with composing the original score for “Waitress” as well as all of the rest amazing musical acts. And they are truly amazing — from the opening one “What’s Inside” and my favorites “It Only Takes a Taste”, “Bad Idea”, “I Didn’t Plan It” and “She Used to Be Mine” up until the final and “Opening Up”. She also released her own studio recording in 2015 entitled “What’s Inside: Songs from Waitress”.