MusicalNorth East & YorkshireReview

Waitress – Sheffield Lyceum Theatre

Reviewer: Ruth Jepson

Writer: Jessie Nelson

Music: Sara Bareilles

Director: Diane Paulus

When even the “please turn off your mobile phone” announcement is a comical little song, you know you are about to see something wonderful. Waitress opens just this way and throws its audience immediately into the most wholesome unsavoury story line in any modern musical.

Waitress follows the unexpected and unwanted pregnancy of Jenna (Lucie Jones, of 2009 X Factor and 2017 Eurovision fame), a waitress and pie imagineer at Joe’s Pie Shop, somewhere in small town Southern America. Jenna is an abused wife who escapes her less than dream life by channelling her pain into pies, creating pun filled wonders such as the Betrayed By My Eggs, all of which are astoundingly popular and give her a chance to perhaps win a pie making contests in nearby Springfield, one that will earn her the cash to leave her husband Earl (Tamlyn Henderson). Encouraged by her two best friends, Becky (Sandra Marvin from Call the Midwife) and Dawn (Evelyn Hoskin, from Misfits) she plans to do just that, especially after starting an affair with the so awkward it’s adorable but equally married new doctor in town, Dr Pomatter (Matt Jay-Willis from the band Busted).

It’s not exactly your usual musical plot line. In a sea of high school romances, a saccharine yet depressing story about late 20/early 30-somethings having love affairs definitely stands out, and it is clear why Waitress has become somewhat of a smash hit. Jones is an exceedingly endearing Jenna, her expressions and emotions really drawing the audience in to root for her, especially during heart wrenching songs like What Baking Can Do and She Used to Be Mine. Her chemistry with Willis blasts out of the stage, making Bad Idea an absolute pleasure to watch, and helping the audience gloss over that whole adultery thing. Who knew that Jay-Willis was so much more than a punk pop guitarist? His goofy, sincere and conflicted Dr Pomatter shows off his talent far past being a chart bad boy heart throb.

In addition to the two leads, praise must also be given to the entire supporting cast but most especially Hoskin for her wide eyed Dawn falling in love with her re-enactment nerd Ogie (George Crawford), as well as the perfectly minimally used but always spot on commentary of Nurse Norma (Scarlet Gabriel). Although it must be questioned why all the male love interests in the musical start off a little bit stalkery (as fantastic as Ogie’s song Never Ever Getting Rid of Me is, and as excellently and frenetically as Crawford performs it, in the Internet dating generation his entire character is full of red flags!).

It’s clear to see why Waitress had such a committed fan base, and it is great see that it has been able to finally tour. If you need a little bit of escapism from your own humdrum life, grab yourself a slice of musical pie and have your heart warmed by the powers of baking.

Runs until 2nd October 2021

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The Yorkshire & North East team is under the editorship of Jacob Bush. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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