BWW Review: WAITRESS at Broadway Grand Rapids Promises To Serve Up A Good Time, and Will Make You Hungry!
Waitress, is in Grand Rapids playing at DeVos Hall through Sunday March, 5th. It is brought to life by a groundbreaking, all female creative team, this Tony Award-nominated hit features original music and lyrics by 7-time Grammy nominee Sara Bareilles ("Love Song" and "Brave"), a book by acclaimed screenwriter Jessie Nelson (I Am Sam) and direction by Tony Award-winner Diane Paulus (Pippin, Finding Neverland)
Waitress takes place in a southern American diner where they are known for their pies. The pies are all made from scratch by a Waitress, Jenna (Christine Dwyer), who thinks her way through different things in her life by talking through them as ingredients to a pie with the base always staying the same and is repeated in a catchy song/ matera wispered over and over through the whole show: "Sugar, Flour, and Butter". She starts another day at work in the diner, but little does she know her life is about to change when her co-workers Becky (Maiesha McQueen) and Dawn (Ephie Aardema) convince her to take a pregnancy test.This leads to the discovery she is, in fact, pregnant with Earl's (Jeremy Woodard), her abusive husband's, child.
Later on, when she goes to the doctor's office she discovers that her doctor has moved away and Dr. Jim Pomatter (Steven Good), a new doctor has taken her place, She leaves a pie with him that she had brought for her doctor, despite the fact that he was "off sugar." When news of the pregnancy reaches the diner's owner, Joe (Richard Kline), he suggests that she enters a local pie baking contest and with a large reward that she could use to leave her husband. Jenna tells Dawn and Becky that she plans on entering the pie contest and using the money to finally leave Earl and start a fresh life with the baby. Will Jenna end up entering the pie contest after all? Will Jenna have the courage to finally leave Earl? Find out this and more when you see Waitress!
Waitress is filled with one musical number after another with very powerful female leads and from what I can imagine the role of Jenna is a very demanding vocal role since the actress does not leave the stage except for more than one song. This type of situation always impresses me when a lead gets little to no downtime because not only are they singing but they are running around the stage and doing allot of movement in addition to the singing and they are doing it for approximately two hours and 10 minutes each night, with only the 15 min intermission.
The cool part for me was that compared to a traditional musical, where the music is played by orchestra in the pit in front of the actors, the music from Waitress is played by what I would describe as more of a jazz style band in the diner on the stage. Right down to a real piano on the moving platform in the back, a drum set, small one person multi-guitar section, and a upright bass, you would have thought you were watching and listening to music in an actual diner! That can also be credited to the authentic diner set complete with one of those kitchens with the window and the little bell to say "order's up," the counter and stoops in front of it, various booths and tables placed, and that band in the corner - all made it feel like you were right there in the diner with Jenna and her friends. Also to go along with the pie theme, it's hard to miss as it's the first thing you see when you walk in the theatre is a huge curtain, that if you look at it, it's a cherry pie! If you look really close the bottom third of the side pillars on the set are actually rotating pie coolers, which they use pies from throughout the show, and even filled a few of them back up at intermission.
Outside the theatre, the lobby smells of fresh baked pie scents coming out of a nice container unit pumping out the cinnamon and spice that makes you crave pie! Good thing you can satisfy that craving with freshly made mini pies available in two flavors (Apple Crumble or Salted Caramel Chocolate) for $10 to eat while watching the show or take home for later! Each pie sold is raising funds to supports a scholarship fund for the Culinary Arts program locally at Grand Rapids Community Collage! In addition to the mini pies, don't forget you can purchase your official Waitress Pie Cookbook with the winning Baked from The Heart contest.
One thing that our readers might not know is this tour has community involvement before it even got into town this past Monday for load in. This is very unique to Waitress and I have never seen it done on any previous tours. The Baked From the Heart Waitress Pie Contest accepted online submissions from March 14th through April 15th, 2019. Then the top three finalist recipes were judged during a live on-air taste testing on local television on Thursday, April 25th. The grand prize winner's prize was their recipe was featured as an insert in the official Waitress cookbook and tickets to the show! The winner for our local Baked From the Heart is Five Sisters Key Lime Pie with Graham-Pretzel-Toasted Coconut Crust baked by Penelope Rose-Morrison. In addition to the pie contest, there was just as much excitement in the local theatre community where the search was on when they held auditions on March 25th, with the help of Grand Rapids Civic Theatre and Circle Theatre staff, for two young girls to perform the role of Lulu for the duration of the engagement. Two lucky girls were chosen from around 60 participants to get this once in a lifetime opportunity. I hate to give away details towards the end of the performance, but in the final scene we finally get to meet Grand Rapids local star, who plays the daughter, Lulu (Avery Brooke Foster) for the media night. Avery Brooke Foster shares the role with Eliza Ritter from Kalamazoo, and each girl will be performing four shows during the Waitress Grand Rapids run.
Waitress is currently running through Sunday, May 5th at DeVos Performance Hall in Grand Rapids. For tickets, visit https://www.ticketmaster.com/promo/bju5bl. We also have one last impressive show closing out this year's Broadway season in Grand Rapids, Anastasia playing June 25th-30th.
Connect with Broadway Grand Rapids for complete info for Waitress, Anastasia and the most up to date info on individual tickets for next season, which starts off with Fiddler on The Roof, The Lion King, and Hamilton both making there Grand Rapids premiers, followed by Charlie and The Chocolate Factory, and making its Michigan debut on its newly released tour Escape to Margaritaville, at www.broadwaygrandrapids.com, on Twitter at @BroadwayGR, on Instagram at @broadwaygr, and on Facebook at facebook.com/BroadwayGR