This popular musical is based on the 2007 film, Waitress which was selected for the Sundance Film Festival, became a box office hit, grossing nearly $22 million on a $1.5 million budget. Written and directed by Adrienne Shelly, it tells the classic American story of Jenna, a small-town girl who works in a restaurant but has big dreams.
When producers Barry and Fran Weissler saw Waitress, they knew it would make a great Broadway show: “I saw the movie and I thought, ‘This is heartbreaking and touching and funny. An all-female creative team behind the book, music and director led to four Tony nominations, including Best Musical, Best Original Score and Best Actress. He then played in London for a year until forced to close in March 2020.
Tragically, Adrienne Shelly was murdered in November 2006 and will never find the international success to follow from a movie screen to a theater stage.
After confinement, Waitress has been on tour for several months in 2021 with Lucie Jones, *Sandra Marvin and Evelyn Hoskins reprising their West End roles. The realistic setting depicts the colorful Joe’s Diner with a counter, stools, tables, booths, blackboard menu and, outside, a panoramic rural scene of telegraph poles against a blue sky backdrop.
The show kicks off in a colorful and upbeat fashion with a medley of songs, as we are introduced to the terrific trio of waitresses, Cal, the restaurant manager, and old Joe, the owner, who loves to sample the daily special. Jenna is a talented baker who designs her own potato and peach polka dot pies. She plans to enter a local pie contest for the chance to win $25,000, which would solve her financial worries and escape her overbearing husband, Earl.
Becky and Dawn are close co-workers and loyal friends, offering advice on love, dating and marriage, woman to woman. With her lively and sunny personality, Becky lifts the spirits of the girls, boosting their confidence. Petite with a high-pitched girly voice, cookie, cute Dawn is rather naive but eager to find a man (who likes ‘the mysteries of history’) on a dating site.
The lyrics of the song move the storyline forward, like the upbeat beat, What baking can do in which Jenna recalls how she baked cakes with her mother, who encouraged her to do well.
So with flour on my hands
I’ll show them all how
Damn happy I am
Sugar, butter, flour…
Jenna cracks eggs into a bowl, sifts flour and rolls out pastry dough as she plays and sings, all at the same time with neat multitasking skills. A sweet place to land sung in perfect unison by the three girls tells how they are all determined to change their lives for the better.
The arrival of a new doctor in town quickly sparks an immediate love interest despite being sadly married. And her too. Think ‘Brief Encounter’. Intimate scenes with Dr. Pomatter (Matt Willis) are slow-motion in flickering light – is this really happening or a fantasy of his imagination?
The topical story centers on Jenna smiling happily, serving cakes in Joe’s restaurant, hiding the dark secret of Earl’s bossy and bullying behavior at home. She is vulnerable, lost and scared but has a strong spirit illustrated in a beautiful ballad, She was mine: Lucie Jones is a true opera diva, showing off her soaring vocal range and deep emotions, heightened with an echo effect.
If I’m honest, I know I’d give it all back
For a chance to start over
And rewrite an ending or two
For the girl I knew.
Sassy, intelligent and moving, Waitress is a feel-good feminist musical with a dramatic and heartwarming punch. Beautiful characterization, sharp dialogue, charming songs and witty lyrics accompany the lively score performed on stage by the six-piece band. Clever choreography too for ensemble numbers with high-flying pie dishes galore.
Imagine the Great British Bake Off as a musical: expect a savory slice of meat, a piece of cheesy romance and a dash of spice, the perfect recipe for a perfectly baked show that’s as sweet as a tart. American blueberries.
Edinburgh Playhouse, 18-22 January 2022
Tuesday to Saturday at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday and Saturday at 2:30 p.m.
Tickets: £13, £33.50, £39.50. £45.
Note: This is a preview to promote Waitress at the Edinburgh Playhouse, based on the show at Manchester Opera House. Chelsea Halfpenny has now taken over the role of Jenna, with, as above, Sandra Marvin as Becky, Evelyn Hoskins as Dawn and Matt Willis as Dr. Pomatter.