Theater Review : Waitress
The stage musical adaptation of late director Adrienne Shelly's whimsical 2007 comedy film, Waitress, made a stop at Capital One Hall in Tysons, Virginia, on October 31st. Jenna is a waitress and expert pie-maker who dreams of a way out of her small town and rocky abusive marriage to Earl. Pouring her heart into her pies, she crafts desserts that mirror her topsy-turvy life, such as "The Key (Lime) to Happiness Pie" and "Betrayed by My Eggs Pie."
After Jenna unexpectedly becomes pregnant, she begins an affair with her doctor, Dr. Jim Pomatter. Soon, a baking contest in a nearby county is announced and may give Jenna the chance at a fresh start, and she must find the courage to seize the opportunity the universe has presented her with. Change is on the menu, as long as Jenna can write her own perfectly personal recipe for happiness.
Screenwriter Jessie Nelson provides the script for Waitress, while Grammy winner Sara Bareilles delivers the music and lyrics. I haven't seen Waitress since 2007, but I do remember enjoying Keri Russell's performance and laughing erratically at Andy Griffin's last line of dialogue. Emerging talent Jisel Soliel Ayon steps into the role of Jenna and immediately erases away any comparisons to Keri Russell, who originated the role in the 2007 film.
I had no idea that a woman of color would play the role until she took the stage. Ayon comes off like a seasoned pro who eludes elegance in her singing voice and portrays the role in a fashion that anyone can relate to. My favorite moments from Ayon were when she provided a pie recipe that correlates to a particular moment.
Kennedy Salters and Gabriella Marzetta portray Jenna's besties, Becky and Dawn. Both women have great singing voices, and each gets the chance to deliver numerous humor filled monologues that had my wife and me both in hysterics. Regarding the men in Jenna's life, Shawn W. Smith successfully taps into the character trope of a miscreant husband. There were numerous times during the play where I wanted to loudly boo his character. At the same time, Michael R. Douglass provides a lively and relatable performance as Old Joe.
Most surprising, though, for me was David Socolar as Dr. Pomatter. I loved that the play didn't use a random pretty boy for the role, as the relationship between Dr. Pomatter and Jenna is a natural one and not merely physical. While Brian Lundy in the part of Ogie steals nearly every scene he's in and is a real find. The songs were all catchy throughout the play and tied into the plot quite nicely.
With catchy songs and star-making performances from its cast, Waitress is a great night out. Whether you are a fan of the movie or just love musicals, make time to Waitress if it's in your city.
Final Grade B+