Waitress Musical 2017

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Waitress Broadway the Musical – Review

Waitress is an upbeat musical with a score by pop singer-songwriter Sara Bareilles. The show is based on the 2007 film of the same name which starred Keri Russell and Nathan Fillion. The small-town vibe and playful characters translate brilliantly on the Broadway stage, offering a lovable cast of characters and colorful setting to the audience. Waitress is clever and sweet, directed by Diane Paulus in such a way that it easily tugs on viewers’ heartstrings. Indeed, Waitress is an emotionally engaging tale of a downtrodden woman finding her way in the world with just a little help from the people around her. The transformation of the main character, Jenna, is a glorious thing to behold.

At the start of the show, Jenna is a troubled Southern waitress who has just found out that she is pregnant. Jenna isn’t exactly thrilled to be with child – this might be because Earl, her husband, is a rough and unromantic character who is unflinchingly rude to his wife. She tries to keep her pregnancy from him but there seems to be little way out of this life for Jenna and her future child. That is, until an unlikely newcomer offers a touch of romance and Jenna gets creative with her pie-making.

The show is whimsical in the best possible way, offering a sugary sweetness to audiences that is well balanced with the issues in Jenna’s home life. Her colleagues at the diner add extra humanity to the production and the cast is unswervingly strong. Similarly, the musical numbers by Bareilles are a mix of country and pop that work beautifully with high points such as “It Only Takes A Taste” and “Never Ever Getting Rid of Me”. Waitress is a perfect example of sweet and spicy musical theater.

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Waitress Musical NYC

Theater: Brooks Atkinson Theatre
Duration: 2 hours 30 minutes (1 intermission)
Starring: Jessie Mueller, Drew Gehling, Caitlin Houlahan

Waitress Musical – Act I

Jenna is a waitress and expert pie maker at Joe’s Diner in the American South who often rationalizes tough situations by conceptualizing them as pie ingredients (“What’s Inside”). One such fantasy is interrupted by Cal, her boss, and she begins another day at the diner along with her fellow waitresses Becky and Dawn (“Opening Up”). On this particular day, Jenna is distracted by her potential unwanted pregnancy; she ducks into the restroom to try a home pregnancy test, wherein she reveals that she has an unloving relationship with her husband, Earl, and that the latent pregnancy was the result of a drunken night. She is dismayed to discover that the test is positive (“The Negative”).

 

As the work day continues, Earl visits the diner, and criticizes Jenna’s low-paying job, suggesting that he may make her quit in the coming days and give up her passion that is baking. Jenna decides not to tell him about the pregnancy, and finds solace in baking her eccentric and at times experimental pies (“What Baking Can Do”).

Jenna goes in for a physical, where in the waiting room she is greeted and taunted by fellow pregnant women (“Club Knocked Up”). She meets her new OB/GYN, the young and handsome Dr. Jim Pomatter, filling in for the woman who had been Jenna’s doctor since birth. Jenna is uncomfortable with this change, and bluntly tells Dr. Pomatter that she does not want her baby. She gives him the pie she had made specially for her old doctor, and while he initially rebuffs the offer, having cut sugar, he indulges himself in the pie when she leaves, clearly falling in love with the confection.

Back at the diner, word has spread of Jenna’s pregnancy to Joe, the curmudgeonly owner of the diner as well as a difficult regular customer, and he suggests that she enter a local pie contest with a high reward. Becky and Dawn also present Jenna with a gift of a baby book, complete with a spot for a letter to the baby, but Jenna is less than enthusiastic toward the book as she is still not looking forward to motherhood. Attention turns to Dawn, who has never had a boyfriend before and has recently begun filling out an online dating profile. Dawn’s profile soon yields a response, and she sets a date for the following night, clearly nervous but excited for the encounter (“When He Sees Me”).

After the working day has ended, Jenna runs into Dr. Pomatter at the bus stop. She tells him about her unhappy marriage, happy to be coming home on a night when Earl is out drinking with friends, and Dr. Pomatter heavily compliments her pie, telling her that he is intrigued by her compassion and resilience (“It Only Takes a Taste”). Jenna arrives home to find Earl, who reveals that he was fired. Already in a sour mood, his temper rises as he tells Jenna to make more money, and his anger almost turns physical until Jenna stops him by telling him that she is pregnant. Earl immediately calms down, though remains angry that she kept this from him, and makes her promise to never love the baby more than him (“You Will Still Be Mine”). At the diner the next day, Jenna reveals to Dawn and Becky that she plans on entering the pie contest and using the winnings to leave Earl and start a new life with the baby. She also helps a nervous Dawn prepare for her date by making her a special pie to give to the man, and the three waitresses softly express their now foreseeable dreams of better lives (“A Soft Place to Land”).

The next day, an odd man named Ogie arrives at the diner looking for Dawn, who reveals that he was the blind date, both of whom having very different ideas of how the date went. Dawn begs Ogie to leave her alone, but he refuses, insistent on getting to know her better (“Never Ever Getting Rid Of Me”). Dawn continues trying to get him to leave until Ogie reveals that he has taken part in American Revolution reenactments, which Dawn has done as well, and the two start to realize just how much they have in common. Meanwhile, Jenna has noticed she has started bleeding, and she calls Dr. Pomatter, who tells her to come in at 7 AM the next morning. She does so, but is irritated when he writes it off as a common symptom of pregnancy, confronting him for calling her over before both of their typical work days over a minute detail. The encounter ultimately culminates in her impulsively kissing him, and they both frantically think over the situation. Ultimately, they both conclude that they could use a break from their frustrating lives, and they decide to begin an affair (“Bad Idea”).

“What’s Inside” – Jenna & Company
“Opening Up” – Jenna, Becky, Dawn, Cal and Company
“The Negative” – Jenna, Becky, Dawn
“Door Number Three” – Jenna
“Waiting Room” – Patients
“When He Sees Me” – Dawn and Company
“It Only Takes a Taste” – Dr. Pomatter and Jenna
“A Soft Place to Land” – Jenna, Becky, Dawn
“You Will Still Be Mine” – Earl and Jenna
“Never Ever Getting Rid of Me” – Ogie and Company
“Bad Idea” – Jenna, Dr. Pomatter, and Company

Waitress Musical – Act II

After her tryst with Dr. Pomatter, Jenna arrives at the diner for work to discover Becky and Cal having sex behind the counter. Jenna confronts Becky on the immorality of their affair, but Becky, aware of Jenna’s affair, defends herself, claiming that Jenna’s actions are no more moral simply because of her worse home situation (“I Didn’t Plan It”). Jenna and Dr. Pomatter continue their affair over the next few weeks, as do Becky and Cal, and Dawn and Ogie’s relationship progresses as well (“Bad Idea (Reprise)”). Jenna’s affair, which has become apparent to many people including Dr. Pomatter’s nurse and Joe, comes to a brief halt when Dr. Pomatter is out of town and does not show up to one of their appointments. When he shows up to the next one, Jenna confronts him over their failure to communicate and considers if the whole affair is a mistake, but they both assure each other of their importance in a world where neither of them are truly valued (“You Matter To Me). Jenna begins writing a mental note to her baby, inspired by the happiness that Dr. Pomatter has instilled in her.

Several months have passed and Jenna’s pregnancy has progressed. Dawn and Ogie are married, in a ceremony complete with catering from Jenna and an impromptu poem from Ogie (“I Love You Like a Table”). At the reception, Jenna asks Cal if, in spite of his affair, he is truly happy, and he responds that he is “happy enough.” Joe also shares a dance with Jenna and, in a rare tender moment for him, expresses his sincere hope and faith in her (“Take it From an Old Man”). Jenna’s happiness is interrupted by Earl’s sudden presence, and he drags her away from the reception and back to their home, where he reveals that he has found the money that she has been stashing away to save up for the pie contest. When he asks what she has been saving the money for, Jenna meekly tells him that the money is for the baby, and that she was saving up to buy the baby a new crib. Earl leaves and takes the money (Dear Baby) When he leaves, Jenna breaks down, lamenting her long-lost control over her own life (“She Used To Be Mine”).

Soon afterward, Jenna goes into labor. She is visited briefly in the hospital by Joe, who is about to have surgery in the same hospital, and who knowing he is dying, gives her an envelope which he tells her to open once she has the baby. The presence of Earl, Becky and Dawn, and even Dr. Pomatter’s wife, makes the delivery room incredibly crowded, and Jenna eventually grows so stressed that she cries out. The stage goes silent, until suddenly the cries of the newborn baby are heard. Jenna names the baby girl “Lulu,” and falls in love with her immediately. Earl tells her to make good on her promise not to love Lulu more than him, but Jenna bluntly tells him that she hasn’t loved him in years and wants a divorce. When he reacts poorly, Becky escorts him out of the hospital, and she and Dawn give Jenna space so she can have a moment with Dr. Pomatter. While he would like to continue the affair indefinitely, Jenna tells him it would complicate things too much and, refusing anymore to be simply “happy enough,” she ends the affair. Still, she thanks him for the positive impact he had on her life during her pregnancy, and in lieu of a homemade pie, gives him a moon pie as a final gift. Jenna remarks on how her outlook has changed with the presence of Lulu in her life (“Everything Changes”).

As she leaves the hospital, Jenna remembers the note from Joe, and she opens it to read that he has left her the diner, asking her to name a pie after him. Some two years later, it is business as usual at the diner, now called “Lulu’s Pies,” and Jenna, now the owner and head chef, is content, her life finally turned around (“Opening Up (Finale)”).[1]

“Bad Idea” (Reprise) – Company
“I Love You Like a Table” – Ogie & Company
“I Didn’t Plan It” – Becky
Take It From an Old Man” – Joe and Company
“She Used to Be Mine” – Jenna
“You Matter to Me” – Dr. Pomatter and Jenna
“Everything Changes” – Jenna and Company
“Lulu’s Pie Song” – Lulu & Jenna
“Opening Up” (Reprise) – Company

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