Whisked away by songs instilled with good old country ballads, Waitress warms me up like a freshly baked pie. With soulful music and lyrics by Sara Bareilles, who brings the audience together with harmonious song during the encore, and based on a book by Jessie Nelson, this adaptation brags of a creative team who all happen to be female.
The initial numbers strike solidly, with ‘The Negative’ proudly and unapologetically discussing peeing on a stick. American Idol’s Katherine McPhee reprises her role of Jenna (she also helmed the original Broadway Production), a melancholic pie maker with an effortless southern twang that could break hearts, and marriages. She finds herself unintentionally pregnant and berates herself for making the stupid mistake of sleeping with her unconvincingly abusive husband, Earl. Unlike its Adelphi predecessor Kinky Boots, Waitress is a lightweight domestic tale, filled with heart and heartbreak, which does not shy away from more realistic portrayals of women, although the word abortion remains curiously untouched. Faced with uncertainty and a lifetime of pie, Jenna is left wondering whether being “happy enough”, is enough.
True honesty comes from this humble pie-maker. Her immoral affair with the endearingly unsmooth gynaecologist played by David Hunter, is perfectly bittersweet, much like the pies she uses to win his heart. This may be small town, but these are real and raw emotions and I am refreshed by their immoral attitudes. Though it isn’t until Act Two that Waitress really gives rise. An ensemble reprise of ‘Bad Idea’ is hilariously rambunctious while McPhee dazzles with ‘She Used to Be Mine’, showing us what her extraordinary voice is really capable of.
The production can brag of more than an all-female creative team as the main trio pulls focus. Jenna is unequivocally supported by her diner colleagues who are trying and succeeding to navigate through their own romantic waters. The delightfully nerdy Dawn, given an essence of quirky sweetness by Laura Baldwin, is keen to find her own happy ending, in all meanings of the word. While Marisha Wallace’s brazen Becky sees herself daring for happiness in an unexpected, but predictable, suitor. The male cast are comfortable accompaniments; Shaun Penderghast is a solid backing for the male cast who makes my heart swell as the time trodden difficult diner owner, urging Jenna to ‘Take It From An Old Man’, which she indeed does. Although Jack McBrayer’s Ogie, Dawn’s relentless happy go lucky suitor, steals from the spotlight a little too enthusiastically, Waitress’ comedic tone boasts success. Perhaps this musical plays on the expected, but it doesn’t make it any less delightful.
Waitress is playing at the Adelphi Theatre until October 18 2019. For more information and tickets, see the Waitress website.