Book: Jessie Nelson
Music & Lyrics: Sara Bareilles
Director: Diane Paulus
Reviewer: Thea Anderson
Based on the film of the same title Waitress is a non stop hilarious, sweet & touching musical romcom.
Barry and Fran Weissler and David Ian have created a show that takes the audience on a joyful ride without a moments lag or boredom. Fans of romcoms, comedy and musicals will be in their element.
The production opens with the lead character, waitress Jenna in a little cut away from the main action to follow making one of her famous pies (a set piece that repeats and marks pivotal points throughout the whole show) where she describes the ingredients and the name of the pie—each of the names of which becomes funnier and more telling as the action progresses.
The audience is then seamlessly transported to the diner where most of the action takes place. Indeed all of the scene changes whisk the audience to new locations in an effortless manner—we are suddenly at home on Jenna’s couch in her unhappy and abusive marriage to Earl or whisked to the doctor’s office for romantic, hilarious steamy scenes with Dr Pomatter. The mood of the piece is also sometimes enhanced by movement pieces from the subsidiary cast.
This is a very talented cast that truly delivers this fun and sweet tale. First we meet Jenna’s fellow waitresses and their surly boss Cal discussing their troubled home and love lives and hear the punchy first song—Opening up. Jenna is played by Chelsea Halfpenny whose voice is absolutely phenomenal especially so when later in the production she sings the emotional ‘Everything Changes.’ Halfpenny is everything you’d hope Jenna to be. She brings warmth, tragedy, strength, vulnerability and a great many laughs.
Her troubled but adorable and comically performed co-workers Becky (Wendy Mae Brown) and Dawn (Evelyn Hoskins) couldn’t be played better. We watch the unfolding of their own love (& sex) stories with delight throughout especially shy, quirky Dawn who decides to finally do online dating
with hilarious consequences in the form of Ogie (George Crawford) who is played with such glee, warmth and humour (& many small off the cuff terrible, funny poems). The audience cannot get enough especially his song, ‘Never getting rid of me.’
The audience watch the contrast between the two men in Jenna’s life—her arrogant, lazy, abusive husband Kurt played wonderfully by Tamlyn Henderson (who has his own name tattooed on his chest, in case he forgets it jokes fellow waitress Becky) who wants to control her and takes her tips every day. Then (spoiler alert) when she finds out she is pregnant with her husband’s baby (after one drunken night), we meet Dr Pomatter (David Hunter) who is sweet, kind, awkward and infatuated with her from the start. Hunter’s performance of Dr Pomatter is eye wateringly funny and unbelievably endearing. Their flowering romance squeezed into the doctor’s office and park benches is priceless and couldn’t have been played with more joy. This is a couple you want to watch try to work things out for hours.
And then there is adorable old Joe (Michael Starke) Jenna’s favourite customer who harks back to tales of his romances and escapades and even has his own sweet number too, ‘Take it from an old man.’
This is a must see show for fans of the film and musical romcoms directed, acted and performed with bags of fun, humour, heart and soul—enough to make an audience smile for days after while humming one of the many wonderful numbers. Not to be missed.
Reviewed on 11th July. Runs to 16th July.