BWW Review: Hot Pies Served with a Side of Sass at WAITRESS
At first glance, Waitress has a deceptively simple surface plot. Woman in a bad marriage hangs with gal pals encouraging her to do better for herself. That may be the bare bits of this musical, but its complexities and melodies are as enticing as one of Jenna's famous pies.
The trouble with reviewing this production is how to choose what to highlight. The show was sheer fun from start to finish. So I will endeavor to keep myself from gushing too effusively, but this show was just such a joy to watch. It had wit, sass, sarcasm, gusto, humor, and also this deep coursing poignancy. It's hard to choose only one nuance to explore and indulge in.
But indulgence is the order of the day in Waitress, so here is one indulgence I could not get enough of: the trifecta of Jenna, Becky, and Dawn. Obviously they're the heart of the show, but the women on that stage made sure they had earned their place not only as the heart of the show but in the hearts of the audience.
Jenna is played by Christine Dwyer, and she settles so perfectly into this dynamic and quick-witted character. Dwyer made Jenna impossible not to love, and she also showed how deeply she wanted this character's story to be told. The goal of any fine actress is to make the audience feel something about their character, and no moment of the performance showed this more than Jenna's intense ballad "She Used to Be Mine." The tension from the audience was palpable as she belted out a sort of eulogy for her own life and the woman she once was.
Maiesha McQueen starred as Becky, and she was the fount of all things sassy and smart. McQueen makes Becky shine as the anchor of this trio, the one most grounded in making decisions that may not always be right but may get you where you need to go next in life. And her own intense singing made you sit up and pay attention. If I were to pick one of the three to steer my life choices, Becky would be the one. Becky is a force to be reckoned with, and McQueen ensured that she did it in heartfelt style.
The only word for Dawn, played by Ephie Aardema, is quirky. She is the oddball of the bunch, the awkward and exacting young woman who's never had a first date. I so appreciated the carefully crafted voice Aardema created for her character. It brought out her naiveté and charm. That left me a bit worried that her vocals would adopt that same sound, which would have been fine. But instead she let her powerhouse voice shining through mimic the heart of Dawn shining through all her reticence and timidity.
These three women are difficult to vie with on stage considering the depth of their friendship and the number of moments they get to shine. However, they found their match in the men on stage. Steven Good as Dr. Pomatter was a picture perfect "adorkable" man who has nothing but good intentions at heart. His gentle charm helped anchor Jenna's vivacity and made their pairing incredibly natural. Jeremy Morse as Ogie was simply irresistible. And by that I mean irresistible to laugh about. If anyone on that stage was guaranteed a laugh, it was him. The tears shed in the deep moments were balanced out by the tears shed from laughing so hard. Finally, it would be easy to dismiss Jeremy Woodard as Earl because his character is so detestable. But that is exactly why I think he's worthy of note. He made me hate a fictional man so much it made cringe and made my skin crawl. To top it all off, he's also an excellent vocalist. It made me notice him even though I dreaded his encounters with Jenna.
The most delicious pie cannot help but be celebrated and shared, and it is the same with Waitress. Missing out on the food and fun it quite literally brings to life will leave you sadly pining for the fulfillment its music and acting brings. So, don't be bashful! There are a few more chances left to visit the diner and experience the people and pies for yourself now through April 28th.