BROADWAY BEYOND LOUISVILLE Review: WAITRESS at the Aronoff Center

BROADWAY BEYOND LOUISVILLE Review: WAITRESS at the Aronoff Center

Bryan Fenkart (left) and Desi Oakley (right) in Waitress. Photo by Joan Marcus.

WAITRESS

Music and Lyrics by Sara Bareilles

Book by Jessie Nelson

Directed by Diane Paulus

Review by Taylor Clemons

Entire contents copyright © 2018 Taylor Clemons. All rights reserved.

The smash Broadway hit Waitress, is finally hitting the road, and how lucky for Cincinnati audiences, they're one of the first cities to host this brand new musical. Based on the 2007 film written by, directed by, and starring Adrienne Shelly, the musical premiered in August 2015 at American Repertory Theater. The show would be directed by Tony Winner Diane Paulus, with music by Grammy Nominee Sara Bareilles. After it's successful out of town run, the show moved to New York City in the Spring of 2016 where it would be nominated for four Tony Awards, Best Musical and Best Score among the four. The show continues to successfully play in New York City.

There's a small part of everyone that asks the question, "Am I happy? Or am I happy enough." More than ever this is the case for our main character and heroine Jenna (Desi Oakley). Jenna works at Joe's Pie Diner alongside fellow waitresses and friends Becky (Charity Angel Dawson) and Dawn (Lenne Klingaman), as well as their harsh boss Cal (Ryan G. Dunkin). Jenna finds work to be a sort of solitude from her home life, where things aren't exactly as sweet as the pie she makes. Her world is turned upside down when she learns that she is expecting a child, and the father is her husband Earl (Nick Bailey), whom she has fallen deeply out of love with. A chance meeting with her new Doctor (Bryan Fenkart) only complicates her life even more, in ways that she never could've imagined. Meanwhile, Dawn and Becky search for love, and they find it in the most unexpected places. I would say more, but I wouldn't want to spoil anything for those going in with little background information.

The cast is uniformly stellar. Lead by the fantastic Desi Oakley as Jenna, who gives her performance equal parts grit, vulnerability, and spunk. Her voice soars in Bareilles' pop infused score, and more than once managed to pull at my heartstrings. Charity Angel Dawson's Becky is scrappy, sassy, and fierce. Dawson gets the fun task of delivering about 40% of the one liners throughout the show, and never fails to find the laugh. On top of it all, she's got a voice to beat the band, as displayed by her second act solo that leaves the crowd with their jaws glued to the floor. Lenne Klingaman as Dawn is sweet and sensitive, while ultimately discovering new things about herself as the show progresses. Her voice is great, and she gets a great chance to show off her comedic chops with her first act solo. Fenkart as Dr. Pomatter is funny, endearing, and has wonderful chemistry with Oakley. Jeremy Morse is an absolute delight as Ogie. I'm not going to ruin anything for you with context, but lets just say Morse comes out of nowhere and instantly has the audience eating out of the palm of his hand.

The score, while poppy, manages to maintain it's depth, a task not so easily achieved by pop stars who try to write contemporary musical theatre. Sara Bareilles puts a little bit of herself into every song she writes and always makes the characters easy to relate. Jessie Nelson's book is witty and funny, but it always keeps its heart.

The set is a lot of fun. The main setting is the diner, which is decked out in a way that invokes a retro feel, which is great to look at, and fun for the audience. The main set seamlessly transitions with ease. The costumes are well thought out and very of reminiscent of small town America.

I'm not gonna beat around the bush, I've been a fan of this show since it's out of town tryout in 2015, and this touring production proves that I'm still a fan more than ever. The show has something for everyone. It satisfies every need you have of a good musical with equal parts humor and heart. If you can see it in Cincinnati, I couldn't recommend it enough, however if a road trip isn't in the cards for you right now, you'll be happy to know that this show will play Louisville this summer. See it now, see it then, all that matters is that you experience that beautiful story of hope, love, and the pursuit of true happiness that is Waitress.

WAITRESS Now - January 21

PROCTER & GAMBLE HALL - ARONOFF CENTER FOR THE ARTS

650 Walnut Street
Cincinnati, OH 45202

(513) 621-2787

https://www.cincinnatiarts.org

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From This Author Taylor Clemons

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