DramaMusicalReviewSouth West

Waitress – Theatre Royal, Plymouth

Reviewer: Marina Spark

Book: Jessie Nelson

Music and Lyrics: Sara Bareilles

Musical Director: Ellen Campbell

Director: Diane Paulus

The West End and Broadway hit musical Waitress has a large following and it is easy to see why. The musical has wit, laughter, and a very big heart. This fresh arrival at Theatre Royal Plymouth’s Lyric stage is very warmly received by the audience; both first time viewers and die-hard fans are to be found on their feet at the end of the show.

This smash hit musical’s numbers are famously clever and heart-felt, with a contemporary style that stands out from the crowd. The close harmony work is expertly executed and creates a sense of musical depth which exceeds the relatively compact cast for a production of this scale. The lyrics are intelligent and perfectly tailored to achieve the goals of each song and scene.

The book itself, written by Jessie Nelson, is based on the 2007 cult classic film of the same name. The plot follows the lives of three disenfranchised female members of staff at an all-American diner who have been dealt a hand that is far from the one they had hoped for. The comedy and fantastic pie metaphors are perfectly balanced by the grittier issues of domestic violence, loss of hope and loneliness.

Chelsea Halfpenny takes the title role of Jenna with confidence and presence. Her portrayal of the main protagonist is truly inspired, and she forms a genuine connection with the audience. Her vocal work is sublime and absolutely flawless. Sandra Marvin plays Becky with strength as well as a subtly crafted inner vulnerability. Evelyn Hoskins is perfectly eccentric and effervescent as Dawn. Matt Jay-Willis plays Dr Pomatter with sincerity and charm. Halfpenny and Jay-Willis have a palpable chemistry that draws the audience in and takes it on an emotional rollercoaster.

Waitress features phenomenal movement and choreography by Charlie Martin throughout. Subtle movement underpins the action and creates a sense of constant flow. The ensemble moves effortlessly from background roles to being in the thick of the action, whether they are taking part in one of the brilliant chorus numbers or seamlessly delivering a scene change. The talented orchestra, led by musical director Ellen Campbell, sit on the stage throughout the performance and form a part of the production with their physicality as well as their musical talents. Their movements reflect the action on stage and the ebb and flow of each scene.

The set design by Scott Pask is highly technical and extremely effective at creating a sense of location and time. A large projected backdrop creates an overall setting enhanced by various moving and flying set pieces.

Waitress is a flawless performance of an excellent production and a guaranteed crowd pleaser. Not to be missed.

Runs until 26 March 2022

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The Southwest team is under the editorship of John McRoberts. 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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