Waitress Closes the Rochester Broadway Theatre League Season
You don't have to be a talented baker (and I certainly am not) to appreciate a show that uses pie as a metaphor for life. Its variety, its many surprises, how with one wrong measurement or ingredient everything can go terribly wrong. Waitress, in addition to being a story about friendship, love, perseverance and hope, tells us a heartwarming story through the prism of one woman's love for pie. Just don't come to the theatre hungry! (Well actually, do come hungry...mini pies are available at concession).
Waitress, based on the 2007 film of the same name and featuring the music of Sara Bareilles (who also starred in the original Broadway production), tells the story of Jenna (Christine Dwyer), a waitress at a small town diner who starts having an affair with her gynecologist Dr. Pomatter (Steven Good) after finding out she's pregnant. Wanting to ensure her future baby a better life by escaping her abusive husband Earl (Jeremy Woodard), Jenna hatches a plan to enter her famous pies in a local contest whose prize money would give her enough money to leave her small town life and start anew.
Waitress is a musical that hinges on not just lovably vibrant characters (of which there are many) but of group chemistry, and this production's cast has endless organic, palpable chemistry. Not just between the central romance of Jenna and Dr. Pomatter, but between Jenna and her best friends and fellow waitresses Becky (Melody A. Betts) and Dawn (Ephie Aardema); between Dawn and her eccentric, mega dweeb boyfriend Ogie (Jeremy Morse); between the waitresses and Cal (Ryan G. Dunkin), the overbearing-but-lovably-teddybearish fry cook. The pairings are endless, as is this cast's ability to pull laughs and tears from the audience.
The talent and chemistry of the actors on stage is a delight, but the real charm of Waitress comes from the small-town folksy aesthetic of the production design, a blend of country and Americana that's surprisingly sparse and nimble with little more than a few baking racks, a sofa, and a corn field backdrop. It lacks the scale and grandiosity of a Les Miserables or Phantom of the Opera, but the show doesn't need all those pomp and frills, because the intimacy of the setting is perfectly coupled with an equally-intimate story. Having the pit band on stage with the actors is also a treat.
And of course, enough can't be said about Waitress' wonderful collection of songs. Spanning soul, rock, country, pop, and nearly everything in between, it has something for everyone and can almost act as a standalone album, with catchy tunes like "The Negative" and "Club Knocked Up" as well as tear-jerkers like "You Matter to Me" and "Everything Changes".
Waitress is about as feel-good as musicals come, and is the perfect ending to RBTL's 2018-2019 season. It's playing at the Auditorium Theatre until this Sunday, June 9th; for tickets and more information, click here.