{Theater Review: Waitress}

This past Saturday night, I saw Waitress for the second time.  I saw it first back in February, and I’ve had a post waiting in the wings that I never finished.  Long story short: I LOVED it.  I figured after the second go-round it was time I actually polished it off and posted my review.

I’m trying to get better at blogging, and figuring out what it is exactly that I talk about here… I’ll get there eventually.

After reading Sara Bareilles’ book, Sounds Like Me, I decided I HAD to see it again.  Being as Bareilles did not have any upcoming concerts, I figured Waitress was the next best thing.  However, I chose to do this two days before her run was coming to an end.  Knowing this might mean the show was either sold out or too expensive for my budget, I took a shot and looked up tickets anyway.  I was pleasantly surprised to find great seats for only $199 each.  Granted, I would not normally pay this much for a Broadway ticket, but given the circumstances, I actually considered this price a stroke of luck.

Tickets in hand, I headed into the city Saturday night to meet my aunt who took the second ticket.  After an extremely warm dinner at Cognac Brasserie (seriously, the restaurant’s air was either not on or not working and it was crazy warm in there; however, as I otherwise like the food and drinks there I’m not complaining) we walked down to the Brooks Atkinson theater.  It happened to be the first day of three-day heat wave in New York, so the walk was not exactly pleasant and the cool air in the theater was more than welcome by the time we got there.  We found our seats, ran to the bathroom and – most importantly – bought our mini pie cups, which are one of my favorite things about this show!

The first two images above are from Saturday night’s show, when I had time to stand outside and get pictures.  The third image, of the key lime pie,is from the one back in February.

First off, I consider myself lucky to have gotten to see both Jessie Mueller, who originated the role and Sara Bareilles, who is my new fantasy best friend.  They were both amazing, though I have to that I preferred Jessie Mueller’s She Used to Be Mine.  This is not to say that Sara Bareilles’ was bad by any means.  They both killed it vocally and Bareilles’ version is one of my favorite things to listen to in the car, but there was something else in Mueller’s performance that is really hard to describe (that likely comes down to her acting ability).  One of the best moments when I saw her in it was when she finished singing, and there was a moment of silence before the audience burst into the applause, as though everyone needed a minute to recover from her performance.

My only complaint about the Sara Bareilles show was the exuberant audience.  They kept applauding mid-song and at really inappropriate places.   This has long been a pet peeve of mine: when someone famous is in a live show and the audience can’t handle themselves and applauds every time he or she opens her mouth.  Believe me, I get the hype about Sara Bareilles – I love her myself, but I also want to enjoy and hear the show I’m seeing, and hear the music which is very difficult when people are applauding like crazy at really inappropriate moments.

Mueller and Bareilles were the biggest differences between the two shows.  Although a few other cast members had changed since the last time I saw it, everything else was more or less the same.  Thus I can talk about the show as a whole, with pictures from both, for the rest of this review.

Waitress is based on the movie of the same name.  It is the story of Jenna, a woman who works in a diner who finds herself accidentally pregnant by her abusive husband Earl, and sees no way to escape her fate.  She ultimately ends up starting an affair with her gynecologist, and spends most of the movie/show not particularly excited that she is about to have a baby.  Jenna works at the diner with Becky, Dawn and Cal and their lives intertwine with Jenna’s as she tries to get herself untrapped.  Jenna’s secret weapon is baking: she dreams up pies that reflect the things going on in her life.

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Jenna’s two main confidantes are Becky and Dawn, fellow waitresses at the diner, each with problems of their own.  Becky has a invalid husband while Dawn can’t seem to find a date.  When she eventually does go on a date, that man turns out to be Ogie (played brilliantly by Christopher Fitzgerald), a clog dancing amateur musician who turns out to be her soulmate:

waitress2

The cast is rounded out by Jenna’s two men: her husband Earl and Dr. Pomatter.  I saw two different actors in both parts each time I went.  Based on what I remember, I think I saw the understudy for Earl the first time around, which would explain why I liked the new Earl (Will Swenson) better.  Earl is a thankless part, because in order to know if you’ve done your job well, the audience has to HATE him so the more your dislike him, the better the actor is.

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Oddly, if there was any character I had to say was underdeveloped, it would be Dr. Pomatter.  However, I think this may have been intentional.  He is a vehicle to help propel Jenna forward.  His story doesn’t necessarily have any weight here.  He is, however, good comic relief in all his dorky awkwardness.

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The costumes are basic but get the job done.  This is not a musical for fancy costumes.  Most of the characters are in their diner uniforms most of the time and when they’re not, they wear regular street clothes.  However, the costume designer found ways to make their sense of style come out with various accessories.  Dawn always has a ridiculous ponytail in her hair, and Becky wears a denim jacket over her uniform.  Their personalities become even clearer when they are wearing their regular clothes: Becky tends to favor the leopard print while Dawn wears basic jeans and sweatshirts.  Jenna, in her non-diner clothes, favors colorful florals.  I wish I could find more pictures for some examples, but most of the pictures are of the cast in their diner clothes.

Overall, everything about Waitress the musical is delightful.  Sara Bareilles’ songs are spot on (a separate post about the music will follow this one), and so are the performances.  The show is just the right mix of sad and funny.  The cast has great chemistry together, and you believe you’ve been let into this little world for a while.  I’m not going to lie: I would totally see this one a third time, both to see how the new Jenna (Betsy Wolfe) fares and to get more tiny pies!

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