BWW Review: WAITRESS SERVES UP PIE AND PASSION at Broadway San Jose
"Sugar...Butter... Flour." What's cookin' at Broadway San Jose is the Tony-nominated show, Waitress, a story filled with baked-in sweetness and poignancy, real-life drama and a healthy sprinkling of comic genius. Bailey McCall stars as Jenna, a waitress and pie chef at Joe's Diner located along a highway route somewhere in the South. She and the other two waitresses, Becky (a salty and saucy Kennedy Salters) and shy Dawn (Gabriella Marzetta) are good friends. In fact, its Becky and Dawn who convinces Jenna to take a pregnancy test, leading to some life-changing, soul-searching and funny musical moments in this delightfully sweet musical about pies.
Yes, pie is the operative metaphor for the show, but it's especially so for Jenna, who learned her baking skills from her now-gone mama. But mother and daughter had more in common than the culinary arts. When her mama was alive, she dealt with an abusive husband and now, so does Jenna. Playwright Jesse Nelson, who adapted writer Adrienne Shelly's 2007 indie film of the same name to the theatre, layers each of her female lead characters with depth and heart, wit and wisdom - and plenty of sexual energy! Not for her the placid, Bible-thumping Southern magnolia gals. These women are red-blooded, down-to-earth and real. Jenna's approach to motherhood is reluctant at best, and initially, so is her affair with her handsome and married gynecologist, Dr. Pomatter (a hilarious and zesty David Socolar). Waitress Becky, who cares for her long-suffering invalid husband, is having a fling with diner manager Cal (Jake Mills), while Dawn is set to get her motor roaring with the delightfully odd and hilarious Ogie (Brian Lundy). Special nods go to Michael R. Douglass as Joe, the diner's owner and regular customer and Jerica Exum as nurse Norma who provides comic relief at just the right moments.
With music and lyrics by Sara Bareilles (I think a large group of her fan base sat behind us) the show rings with an affable familiarity but is still fresh and funny, especially in the orgasmic song "Bad Idea." But it is with Bareilles' signature gift for poignancy that the story finds its true heart. In Jenna's climactic song, "She Used To Be Mine," McCall's soprano sears with anguish as she reflects on the girl she used to be - right before she goes into labor. Life can be complex. She ends her affair with Dr. Potmatter while acknowledging to him that in some ways he saved her. Becky's affair likely kept her going too. In life, nothing is as simple as pie. "Sugar...butter...flour."