BWW Review: WAITRESS at Lied Center For Performing Arts Has All the Ingredients for a Delicious Concoction
Catchy melodies, clever lyrics, and a lot of heart go into this concoction about a waitress with a talent for baking pies and forming friendships. WAITRESS, now showing at the Lied Center for Performing Arts in Lincoln, blends just the right amount of sweet and bitter.
Based on the motion picture written and directed by Adrienne Shelly, it was adapted for stage by Jessie Nelson with music and lyrics by pop singer/songwriter Sara Bareilles. Directed by Diane Paulus on Broadway, WAITRESS was nominated for several Tony Awards and a Grammy for Best Musical Theatre Album.
"Sugar, Butter. Flour." Ms. Bareilles' opening lyrics clue us in to the use of a baking metaphor. What you put into life is what you can expect to take out. In the national tour of WAITRESS, Jenna (Bailey McCall) uses her skills as a baker of pies to help her through an unhappy marriage to her shiftless husband Earl (Clayton Howe.) When she discovers she is pregnant (blame the red dress), she plans her escape through entering a pie baking contest with a $20,000 prize.
Jenna relies on her female coworkers, who are her only friends, to ease her misery. Quirky, shy Dawn (Gabriella Marzetta) and bold, brazen Becky (Kennedy Salters) come alongside Jenna as they refill the condiments, deal with persnickety customers, and keep Cal the cook (Jake Mills) on his toes. All three women deal with newly formed relationships with men. Dawn meets her Revolutionary War re-enactor soulmate, Ogie (Brian Lundy) on the internet. The pair is destined to be together as when he sees her during their five minute first date, he is smitten and determined to never, ever let her get rid of him. Becky sees Cal as more than the grumpy guy at the grill and won't apologize for her feelings for him as she didn't plan it to turn out this way. As for Jenna, her attraction to her new OB/GYN doctor, Dr. Pomatter (David Socolar), is a "really good bad idea" that gives her the love she needs most.
WAITRESS juxtaposes the ridiculous behaviors of Jenna's friends and her own serious feelings of entrapment. McCall does a great job contrasting Jenna's calm exterior with her inner turmoil. Her response to the curmudgeon owner Joe (Michael R. Douglass) is gracious and patient and the rewards are gratifying. She defuses Earl's anger by singing his favorite line of their song, which he has forgotten. She is sensitive to the feelings of others. She is the eye around which the hurricane blows.
Having seen WAITRESS in New York with Jessie Mueller as Jenna, my expectations were high. McCall comes through. She handles Ms. Bareilles' songs with melodic tone and emotion, building from a delicate touch to a full throttle belt in the gorgeous "She Used to Be Mine." Her duet "You Matter to Me" shared with smooth-voiced Socolar is tear worthy. These two songs alone are worth the price of admission.
Sara Bareilles is a master of melody. She is a wizard with words. Her work is in good hands with this cast.
The national tour of WAITRESS is appearing at the Lied Center for Performing Arts through March 8. Missing this production would be missing a treat.