Sugar, Butter, Flour and a Sweet Story
Deliciously sweet, Waitress, now on stage at Toronto’s Ed Mirvish Theatre, has all the ingredients of a romantic comedy. Yet, by the time dessert comes around, the main character is single and strong, and that’s what makes this piece of pie special.
Jenna is a waitress in a pie diner. Not only does she serve customers, she is also tasked with baking all the delicious pies. She has two zany friends, Dawn and Becky, also waitresses at the diner.
Jenna’s husband Earl is a nasty piece of business. She is fed up with his jealousy, abusive treatment, and obsessive control of her, but she can’t see a way to leave him. Then, to her surprise, she is pregnant, which makes her feel even more trapped in her loveless marriage. In the meantime, Dawn starts dating Ogie, with whom she shares a love of historical reenactments. Becky and Cal, the cook at the diner, commence an unlikely but heartwarming affair, with both professing love for their spouses – her husband is sick and disabled, his wife is gay. At the same time, Jenna becomes involved in an affair with her gynecologist, a new doctor in their small southern town. Just when the characters all seem stuck in a big gooey mess, everything comes out of the oven, baked perfectly.
Christine Dwyer’s portrayal of Jenna is sweet in its simplicity. She under-acts the role, so that she just seems like any friendly and pleasant waitress you might have at your table.
Jeremy Woodard is pure evil as Earl. Woodard is able to make you aware that Earl’s pleading and profession of love is completely insincere. Melody A. Betts gives us a funny, nerdy Dawn, and Ephie Aardema is a delight as Becky, Jenna’s friend and sidekick. Aardema belts the big tunes. Steven Good creates comedy as the new doctor so unsure of himself. But the real scene stealer is Jeremy Morse as Ogie, Dawn’s extra nerdy boyfriend. His physical comedy is hilarious, and he delivers the lines with perfect timing.
The music and lyrics provided by Sara Bareilles develop the story perfectly. Ogie’s (Morse) “Never Ever Getting Rid of Me” is his hilarious courting of Dawn. Jenna (Dwyer) and Dr. Pomatter (Good) sing perfect duets with “Bad Idea” and “You Matter to Me”.
The afternoon we saw Waitress at the Ed Mirvish Theatre, we sat in the mezzanine (balcony). There might have been problems with the sound system, as at times it was difficult to hear the actors. Their southern drawls could have interfered with the comprehension, too. Often, those sitting in the orchestra seats would be laughing, but no one in the balcony laughed because they couldn’t clearly hear the punchlines. Let’s hope this is a problem that is remedied early in the run.
Based on the 2007 movie, Waitress was made into a musical with the addition of music and lyrics by Sara Bareilles. Then a creative team, entirely made up of women, brought the show to the stage. Presented from a female point of view, the show offers a very inspiring story in a very appetizing way.
Waitress continues with eight shows a week until August 18 at Ed Mirvish Theatre, Toronto. Call Ticket King 416-872-1212 or 1-800-461-3333 or visit www.mirvish.com for tickets.
Photo: Melody A. Betts as Dawn, Christine Dwyer as Jenna, and Ephie Aardema as Becky in the National Touring Production of Waitress. Photo by Daniel Lippitt.
Based on the movie by Adrienne Shelly
Music and Lyrics by Sara Bareilles
Book by Jessie Nelson
Directed by Diane Paulus
Choreographed by Lorin Latarro
Musical Supervision by Nadia DiGiallonardo
Performed by Christine Dwyer, Steven Good, Ephie Aardema, Melody A. Betts, Richard Kline, Jeremy Woodard, Jeremy Morse et al.
Ed Mirvish Theatre, Toronto
July 9 to August 18, 2019
Reviewed by Mary Alderson