Skip to main content

Theater Review: "Waitress"

Theater Review: "Waitress"


Waitress, the new musical opening April 24 at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre, depicts a woman's struggle to leave her abusive husband after she learns she's pregnant and starts an affair with her OBGYN.  While the story, based on Adrienne Shelley's 2007 film, doesn't exactly sound like the perfect musical comedy, the show works surprisingly well, especially considering how much I loathed the movie.

With its book by Jessie Nelson and music and lyrics by Sara Bareilles, Waitress isn't always sure what type of musical it wants to be. The setting, a roadside diner somewhere in the South, suggests a deep-fired, country-tinged show, while the young and racially diverse ensemble seem better suited for a modern show with pop songs, and the score incorporates both styles. The real through line of the piece is its message of female empowerment, represented by Jessie Mueller's Jenna, a waitress with a talent for baking pies, and her journey to self-actualization.




Mueller, who won a Tony two years ago for Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, is the main reason to see this show. She infuses every word with life, eliciting sympathy from the audience even when her character continues to make questionable choices. She also has real chemistry with Kimoko Glenn and Keala Settle, who play the diner's other two waitresses. Nick Cordero, who was great in Bullets Over Broadway a couple of seasons ago, is strong here as the husband, as is Drew Gehling as Dr. Pottamer, the OBGYN with whom Jenna has an affair. Christopher Fitzgerald gets laughs in his relatively minor role as the  love interest for Glenn's character. Veteran actor Dakin Matthews also makes the most of his short scenes as the owner of the diner. 


The staging by Diane Paulus is competent but occasionally the attempts to make this a big Broadway musical gets in the way of what is essentially an intimate story. Lorin Latarro's choreography is at times far too busy. The audience cannot fully appreciate one of Bareilles' best songs, called "When He Sees Me" and sung by Glenn, because they are laughing at the sight of Glenn running around the stage. The song is about the character's innermost fears and having practically the entire cast on stage moving around with her is such an incongruous choice. The show is at its best when it's at its simplest, like the tender moment between Matthews and Mueller as he sings to her the lovely "Take It From an Old Man". 

In the end, Waitress is much like a pie itself. A bittersweet concoction with an imperfect ratio of ingredients. Nevertheless, it's an entirely enjoyable evening at the theater, and marks Bareilles' impressive debut as a Broadway composer. 

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

"My Mind Turns Your Life Into Folklore": Why Taylor Swift's "Gold Rush" Is a Song About Songwriting

"My mind turns your life into folklore." That line, from the song "Gold Rush," is the only time the word "folklore" is spoken on either of Taylor Swift's 2020 records, Folklore and Evermore , the latter of which is where the song appears. The presence of the line indicates that "Gold Rush" is a pivotal song not only in Swift's lockdown duology, but in her maturation as a songwriter.  Swift's early albums often drew heavily from her own experiences, with fans and the media scouring her lyrics for clues as to which ex-boyfriend her numerous breakup songs referred. Her tumultuous dating life made as many headlines as her music, in part because it informed so much of the music. The discourse was often ridiculous and reductive, and thankfully, that period of her career is over (Swift has been in a relationship with the actor Joe Alwyn since 2016).  Both of her 2020 albums have their fair share of autobiographical songs, but they also see

A Great Show Rushes to its End: "Mom" Finale Review

It's never easy to end a TV show, especially a long-running, beloved show like Mom . "My Kinda People and the Big To-Do," the last episode of Mom that aired May 13 on CBS, was a good episode. It was maybe even a great episode. But was it a satisfying series conclusion? No, not really. But we're getting ahead of ourselves. Before we talk about what didn't happen in the episode, let's talk about what did happen.  The episode begins at an AA meeting, as many episodes have. The ladies - Bonnie, Tammy, Jill, Marjorie, & Wendy - all share. They're all happy and in good places in their lives, much to the annoyance of newcomer Shannon (played by Melanie Lynskey, independent film mainstay whose sitcom credits include Chuck Lorre's Two and a Half Men ). Bonnie wants to help Shannon, as she had been helped by others when she too was new to the program, and even chases Shannon in the rain when she leaves the meeting. Later in the episode, we see Shannon'

Paramount+ Review and Breakdown

  Paramount+, the rebranded CBS All Access streaming service from ViacomCBS, launched today. It got me thinking about this photograph. Are you familiar with it?  If you aren't, perhaps you're wondering why Tom Cruise is standing next to Charlton Heston who is standing next to Penny Marshall who is standing to Bob Hope who is standing next to Victor Mature who is standing next to *squints* Elizabeth McGovern who is standing next to Robert De Niro. The whole photo is full of weird combinations like that - Shelley Long next to Jimmy Stewart, Molly Ringwald next to Dorothy Lamour, Gregory Peck next to Debra Winger. This photograph was taken in celebration of Paramount's 75th anniversary in 1987. But you're forgiven if you didn't guess that, because who looks at all these people and thinks immediately that what they all have in common was working for Paramount at one point? Certainly not I.  And therein lies the problem with Paramount+'s marketing strategy. Paramoun