‘Waitress’ Serves Something Scrumptious
The scent of ‘sugar… butter… flour… love…’ was in the air as I entered the American Repertory Theater last night.
I first read about ‘Waitress’, a musical based on the 2007 film of the same title, early last winter when it was announced that Diane Paulus would direct, Sara Bareilles would compose the music and lyrics, and Jessie Nelson would write the book.
The announcement that Jessie Mueller, the Tony® award winning actress who portrayed Carole King in ‘Beautiful’, was cast to play Jenna Hunterson was made in early spring, and I became even more excited to see it.
There was tremendous excitement coursing through the lobby as I waited for the doors to open. There are diner order tickets, pencils and clips waiting on the tables so patrons may write about a food memory. You need not ask if I wrote one – of course I did!
A giant pie which served as the curtain greeted me as I entered the theatre. Anyone who has seen the film knows the significance of pies to the story.
As soon as the lights dimmed and Mueller took the stage, the entire audience seemed entranced as I heard not a sound other than clapping. Later in the evening, I heard a fair amount of sniffling to which I contributed.
I became thoroughly enchanted with Mueller’s performance as Jenna from the moment she opened her mouth. She has a beautiful voice and an engaging manner. The image of Keri Russell, who played Jenna in the film, never crossed my mind as I watched.
Keala Settle, who played Becky, is marvelous! Becky’s character is funny, sassy and irreverent (at least in this musical – I do not recall her character in the film), and Settle is perfect in the role. I expect I will see more of her in the future.
All the actors did well in their roles, especially Jeanna de Waal as Dawn, Dakin Matthews as Joe, Drew Gehling as Dr. Pomatter and Jeremy Morse as Ogie. I must admit that Gehling brought Nathan Fillion’s portrayal of Dr. Pomatter to mind, but that is not a negative to me since it was not a carbon copy of Fillion’s acting.
The music is fabulous and I cannot wait to get the cast album when it is released. Bareilles wrote a marvelous score for this show. The songs suit the story, and the cast sings them beautifully. I loved the harmonizing by Mueller, Settle and de Waal, and also enjoyed the duets with Mueller and Gehling.
The band, which at least for this show included Bareilles on piano, is excellent and I appreciated the way they were put on the stage instead of hidden in the wings. They were in the back of the diner, appearing as if they were customers dining on a porch.
The set is well done and easily switched for scenes in the diner, the Huntersons’ home, and Dr. Pomatter’s office. An integral part of the set (and also of the story) is the sign where the clever name of the pie of the day is written.
The play has been updated a bit, including the addition of a same-sex couple with their surrogate mother as patients waiting for the doctor. Mostly, however, the story tracks my memory of the film (which I need to see again soon). This film tackles issues such as spousal abuse and sexual themes, and handles them with delicacy and grace. I laughed, I cried, and I stood along with most of the audience to honor the cast with a well-deserved ovation.
‘Waitress’ is a fantastic tribute to Adrienne Shelley who wrote the original film and who was murdered shortly before its release.
See this show if you can! There are very few tickets left for this show which runs through September 26, 2015. Starting in March 2016, you can see it on Broadway; I have no doubt it will be nominated for many awards.
Posted on August 21, 2015, in music, theatre reviews, Uncategorized and tagged American Repertory Theater, boston, Dakin Matthews, Diane Paulus, Drew Gehling, Jeanna de Waal, Jeremy Morse, Jessie Mueller, Jessie Nelson, Keala Settle, Sara Bareilles, theatre review, Waitress. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.