Theater Review: “Waitress”

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Sugar. Flour. Butter. A multi-talented cast whips up a recipe for a theatrical treat.

 

Broadway at TPAC presents:
Waitress (June 5 – 10; Ages 14+)
TPAC’s Jackson Hall
505 Deaderick St., Nashville
615-782-4040 • tpac.org
Show times: Tue – Thu 7:30 p.m., Fri 8 p.m., Sat 2 & 8 p.m., Sun 1 & 6:30 p.m.
Tickets: $30 – $85
Editor’s Note: Due to mature themes, this show is not suitable for young children.

 

Never underestimate the power of sweet comfort food. It’s served up like a piping hot pie in the crowd-pleasing musical Waitress.

Based on Andrienne Shelly’s 2007 movie of the same name, Waitress boasts a clever book by Jessie Nelson with solid music and lyrics by pop/soul songstress Sara Bareilles.

 

ABOUT THE SHOW

Waitress follows the story of Jenna (Desi Oakley), a waitress in a small southern town who has an abusive husband, Earl (Nick Bailey), and an unwanted baby on the way that she’s not going to abort.

Jenna’s also got a knack for pie-making. She pulls double duty making pies and serving as a waitress at Joe’s Pie Diner. Furthermore, she dreams of getting away from Earl and life as she knows it, looking to the $20,000 grand prize in a pie contest as her way out.

Along the way, she winds up having an affair with her gynecologist, Dr. Pomatter (Bryan Fenkart), which certainly adds spark to her otherwise lackluster existence. 

At every twist and turn, Jenna whips up new pie combinations that serve as outlets for her emotional mindset. Broadway-blessed Oakley gives a superb performance as Jenna, shining bright vocally. She deftly plays Jenna’s understandable dour demeanor and the journey through her uneasiness with the idea of motherhood. 

Despite the show feeling a little slow and uncertain at the beginning, Oakley does an excellent job of winning over the audience as she gains hope for a better life with the encouragement of both her friends and the reality of what her growing belly signals.

The sweet-as-pie life-changing moment for Jenna is in the delivery room when she finally comes face to face with her baby girl, Lulu. There’s an instantaneous spark that gives her the strength and gumption to fearlessly get rid of her deadbeat husband and roll out a brand-new life.

 

COMIC RELIEF

No doubt, Waitress comes with its share of emotionally heavy scenes. A tremendous amount of comedy is thrown in for good measure courtesy of the terrifically talented supporting cast.

The diner setting features Jenna’s semi-overbearing boss, Cal (Ryan G. Dunkin), and two fellow waitresses — the sheepish, nerdy Dawn (Lenne Klingaman) and the sassy, boisterous Becky (Charity Angél Dawson). There’s immense chemistry between the four of them in the diner, somewhat reminiscent of Mel’s Diner from Alice, the hit TV show from the ’70s and ’80s.

They each have their own storylines, adding much flair to the stage. From an unlikely romance between co-workers to an over-the-top relationship that blossoms between mousy Dawn and the incredibly nerdy Ogie (Jeremy Morse), it’s a recipe for hilarity. Morse is a true show-stealer with his unforgettable delivery of the knee-slapping country number, “Never Ever Getting Rid of Me.”

Likewise, Fenkart stirs lots of endearingly goofy charm into the mix of the production. 

Each of the cast gives memorable performances, making Waitress a thoroughly entertaining experience.  And a little something extra sweet comes in the “Opening Up” finale. Here, two local 5-year-old girls — Eleanor “Ellie” James and Olivia James Graves — alternate the role of Jenna’s daughter, Lulu. The walk on role serves as the stage debut for both little girls, certainly a wonderful experience they won’t forget.

Waitress is definitely this weekend’s hot ticket in town if you’re looking for a parents’ night out date!

Chad Young is the managing editor and arts/entertainment editor for this publication.

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