BWW Review: WAITRESS, a Delicious Treat for the Senses
Sugar. Butter. Flour. Welcome to the kitchen where Jenna (Desi Oakley) is baking up a fresh pie. She works tirelessly every day baking new pies and serving at Joe's Pie Diner, only to have her abusive husband Earl (Nick Bailey) take her sweet earnings at the end of every shift. Jenna's life begins changing when she discovers she is pregnant with Earl's baby.
Unlike the typical joy and merriment that follows such a discovery, Jenna deals with the nuisance matter-of-factly. She doesn't want to bring a baby into the world, let alone a baby because of her husband.
Naturally, in any romantic comedy, there are a few secret ingredients to spice things up a bit. In addition to her husband, Jenna is introduced to her awkward gynaecologist Dr. Pomatter (Bryan Fenkart). The doctor's office becomes a place of true comic delight as the musical and relationships progress, however faithful they may be.
Jenna is supported by her harmonizing coworkers: the quirky and nerdy Dawn (Lenne Klingaman) and the feisty and bold Becky (Charity Angél Dawson). Jenna is even encouraged by the old and seemingly ill-tempered owner, Joe (Larry Marshall), who pushes her to enter an upcoming pie contest. Jenna imagines using that money to take her baby and leave her husband.
With music and lyrics by Sara Bareilles and book by Jessie Nelson, Waitress captures and expands upon the humor and wit of the 2007 movie of the same name, as can be done in theatre with exaggeration and dramatization.
It's hard to tell who is funnier: Dr. Pomatter, whose corny jokes and close encounters with Jenna make him all the more loveable; Nurse Norma (Maiesha McQueen), whose impeccable timing and pointed observations make her a queen cheek; or Ogie (Jim Hogan), whose grandiose gesticulations and bombarding determination make him the Paul Revere to Dawn's Betsy Ross.
For me, the show had a slow comedic beginning, and I began wondering if I would come to love the show, but it didn't take long before the elements of musical theatre began sweeping the whole audience, alone with me, off in boisterous laughter.
Aside from the hilarious script, the thing that I most enjoyed about this show was its attention to detail in its choreography. No, there were no long suites or rhapsodies to accompany large dance breaks, as the music has a unique Bareilles style to it, but the precision of movement from the technical elements to the chorus made for a show that flowed like cream poured into coffee. Lighting and scene changes were executed perfectly, and upstage actors moved in unison while downstage actors were singing, dancing, and baking.
The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust also took to the community with this production. Last month, a pie contest was hosted to find the most creative pie recipe. Additionally, the Trust partnered with Whole Foods Pittsburgh, which baked the 30 pies that will be eaten and used on stage during its run in Pittsburgh. Unlike an Ellen or Oprah show, whole pies were not given to every member of the packed house, but individual pies were sold in mason jars in the theatre lobby for those too tempted to resist. (Somehow I mustered up the courage to stay true to my diet...and only get a small bag of cinnamon-sugar almonds!)
Although Pi Day is next Wednesday, there is no reason to delay the celebration. Start a little early with a delightful dessert from the cast of Waitress. Flour is in the air at the Benedum Center, so join the other cooks in the kitchen before the timer dings Sunday evening.
To see or not to see score: 7/9; Recommended Show
Photo Credit: Joan Marcus