Waitress: Adelphi Theatre, London
Reviewed 20th February 2019 (preview performance).
One of the most highly anticipated modern Broadway hits to cross the pond Waitress is based upon the 2007 film of the same name and tells the story of Jenna Hunterson, a waitress in an abusive relationship with her husband Earl. When Jenna unexpectedly becomes pregnant, she begins an affair with her gynecologist, Dr. Jim Pomatter. Looking for ways out, she sees a pie contest and its grand prize as her chance. Featuring original music and lyrics by 7-time Grammy® nominee Sara Bareilles (“Love Song“, “Brave“), a book by acclaimed screenwriter Jessie Nelson (“I Am Sam“) and direction by Tony Award® winner Diane Paulus (“Pippin“, “Finding Neverland“) Waitress has been a smash hit racking up the award nominations and becoming a firm favourite with fans.
Uplifting-yet-sensitive; this musical will have your mouth watering at the sight of the copious amounts of pie and heart sing at the sweet storyline. Whilst the plot itself is fairly predictable it is certainly directed well by Diane Paulus. The hard hitting storyline of domestic abuse, whilst not directly shown, is dealt with superbly. Audience members have already quoted Waitress as being the reason they left their abusive relationship which stands testament to the value theatre can have upon people. Waitress is a comedy musical and is full of witty one-liners, over the top characters and clever humour. Fundamentally it is about friendship, love and acceptance and is certain to draw even more fans in now it has set up home at the Adelphi Theatre.
Katharine McPhee, who has played Jenna on Broadway as well as co-starring in NBC’s hit show Smash, is impressive as Jenna. Not only does she manage to reduce the audience to tears during the moving song ‘She Used To Be Mine‘ but her relationship between the other characters onstage is believable, honest and true. The subtleness of Katharine’s acting is perfect for Jenna. Marisha Wallace is hilarious as Becky and shows off her powerhouse vocals during her outstanding rendition of ‘I Didn’t Plan It‘. David Hunter’s awkward, flustered Dr Pomatter is absolutely side-splitting and the interaction he has with the audience (and pie) makes his character even more endearing. Hunter and McPhee work well together, the chemistry between their characters is believable and their voices compliment each others fantastically during ‘Bad Idea‘ and ‘You Matter To Me‘. Laura Baldwin’s comic timing as Dawn is wonderful and whilst Jack McBrayer’s vocals may not be the strongest his portrayal of the eccentric, ever romantic, ‘poem-writer’ Ogie is a sight to be behold – resulting in many audience members crying with laughter. In fact, all of the cast are hugely talented and work smoothly together to create a family on-stage. The dynamics between the cast and the characters is believable and relatable. A special mention must also go to Nurse Norma, played brilliantly by Kelly Agbowu, who has some of the best one-liners seen onstage.
Waitress is a slick production, from the smell of pie in the auditorium to the interval treat of tiny pies served in glass jars. It certainly knows how to treat its fans and seemingly despite being a new musical in the UK it is already a huge hit. The London production feels fresh and the cast are superb but some of the set pieces do feel slightly dated in terms of style – the ‘safe’ option. The set design, by Scott Pask, sets the scene perfectly as the all-American diner and the transitions are executed brilliantly but at times the large set pieces seem clumsy and flimsy. The clever use of baking ingredients and choreographed baking taking place on stage certainly adds to the production and no doubt helps to leave most audience members hungry for something sweet after a night at the theatre. The lighting, by Ken Billington, certainly helps to add the extra touches. The lighting during Jenna’s daydreams or ‘pie-tudes’ as Diane Paulus refers to them is particularly good. Waitress is not a dance show by any means but the clever choreography and sequenced movements by Lorin Latarro is fresh and interwoven well into the narrative. One major plus of this production is the use of the band onstage as part of the diner – it’s great to see the band being celebrated and utilised as without the talented band, who often get overlooked, there would be no show at all.
Featuring some catchy songs, an uplifting, heartwarming storyline and frequent comedy moments Waitress stands apart from the other shows currently on at the West End. It is easy watching and a show which could be easily shared between friends and family. Sweet and funny, Waitress is certain to make your mouth water and heart sing. Catch Waitress now in the West End’s Adelphi Theatre.
For more information and tickets for Waitress click here.
Photo Credit: Johan Persson