BWW Review: WAITRESS Charms Edmonton
Sugar, butter, and flour are key ingredients of a small-town waitress's big dreams. Equipped with quiet strength and delicious ideas, Jenna (Bailey McCall) is determined to win a local pie-making contest and flee her abusive marriage. But life hardly goes according to the recipe, and Jenna soon finds herself dealing with an unplanned pregnancy and an affair with her dashing new doctor.
Waitress, the heartwarming Broadway blockbuster, is based on Adrienne Shelly's 2007 film. Scored by acclaimed songstress Sara Bareilles, the production opened on Broadway in 2016, garnering 4 Tony Award nominations and capturing hearts all over the world.
As protagonist Jenna Hunterson, Bailey McCall is the show's beating heart. She delivers a sympathetic portrayal of a conflicted woman at a crossroads, portraying Jenna's grief and joy with strong acting chops and mellifluous vocals. Whether speaking or singing, McCall delivers raw vulnerability to fragile joy to everything in between, enveloping the audience in Jenna's bittersweet world. Whether warbling whimsical ditty What Baking Can Do or mourning the past in She Used to Be Mine, McCall proves herself as not only a standout Jenna but a rising star.
As Jenna's BFFs and co-workers, Becky (Kennedy Salters) and Dawn (Gabriella Marzetta) provide comic relief with their respective quips and quirks. Salters garners big laughs with Becky's sly one-liners while Marzetta endears as bespectacled historical reenactor Dawn. Together, McCall, Salters, and Marzetta paint a touching portrait of female friendship, bringing humour and lightness to what could have been an otherwise somber story.
Also noteworthy is David Socolar as the adorkable Dr. Pomatter, Jenna's sweet but socially inept new doctor. Whether singing infectious duet Bad Idea or simply gazing into each other's eyes, Socolar and McCall fan the flames of their characters' forbidden romance, sharing both bittersweet and humorous moments.
As Dawn's bumbling suitor Ogie, Brian Lundy draws big laughs with his Mr. Bean-esque antics, delivering a lightning-fast rendition of Never Ever Getting Rid of Me followed by exaggerated puffs on an inhaler. Clayton Howe is frightening as Jenna's tyrannical husband Earl while Michael R. Douglass stirs heartstrings as Joe, the diner's crotchety but ultimately endearing elderly owner. Joining the cast are local actresses Audrey Elizabeth Ehrenholz and Annalise Johnson, who share the small but adorable role of Jenna's daughter Lulu.
While Waitress's songs and performances arguably take centre stage, the production design is an achievement of its own. As detailed as one of Jenna's confectionary creations, the show's set beckons the audience over the diner's blue and yellow tiled threshold and into its charismatic chaos. From booths to bar stools and immaculate blackboard menus, the world of Waitress is so atmospheric that you can literally hear pans jostle, see snowy puffs of sprinkled flour, and even peer through the diner's windows at golden fields sprawled under a sun-kissed rosy sky. And that's saying nothing of the lively band strategically stationed in one corner.
Bittersweet and beautiful, Waitress plays at Edmonton's Northern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium until December 1.