Yes, Waitress, I will take a piece of pie to go with my Sara Bareilles love song. Because I need one.
Sara indeed works magic on this production in the same manner that heroine Jenna works magic with Sugar, Butter, and Flour. Jenna’s singing, like her baking, is effortless and captivating. The story flows, the dialogue is good, the characters very human – flawed, and all endearing – with the exception of one.
Jenna is a waitress in Joe’s diner, with a love of creating and baking pies. She works hard, makes enough to get by. Joe comes by daily for have a piece of Jenna’s pie, to read his horoscope, and give Jenna unsolicited advice.
Jenna is pregnant by her good-for-nothing husband Earl (drunk, unemployed, and generally despicable) and in love/lust with her sweet, awkward, and adorably funny obstetrician. Supported by her fellow waitresses and faithful friends Dawn and Becky, Jenna devises a plan to escape her abusive marriage. Of course, nothing in life goes as planned, but the story does have a sweet ending.
The music is skillfully written and performed and the set is perfect. Joe’s Diner comes to life with singers in booths, the orchestra onstage, and the pies on the piano. What I find most memorable about the production is its testament to the power of friendship, community, and the love that comes to us from unexpected places.
Jenna’s performance of the hit song “She Used to Be Mine” had the audience entranced through the number. When she stopped, the entire theatre was so silent you could hear a pin drop. And then, thunderous applause.
Waitress feels like Broadway delivered as intended, created and executed thoughtfully, with all details that most show-goers can’t quite identify, but know its there when they experience it. At least that is how I feel about it.
I will caution parents that this show is not for children. There are scenes that are explicitly sexual, with a raunch factor that is excessive for my taste. On the whole, this is a show I would recommend for the music, the laughter, the love. And of course, the pie.
Waitress is playing at the Ordway in St. Paul from March 8-13. Tickets start at $44.
Review by Kavita Battula