REVIEW: ‘Waitress’, Adelphi Theatre

Waitress‘, Adelphi Theatre

  Waitress and expert pie-maker Jenna dreams of starting a new life. When news of an upcoming baking contest reaches her, Jenna spies a way out of her abusive relationship, and a chance to escape the small town where for her, nothing changes. Add a bun in the oven and a subsequent appointment with a married gynaecologist, and Jenna is even more determined to grab hold of every opportunity that comes her way, never losing sight of her dream of opening her own pie shop.

  Order’s up at London’s Adelphi Theatre as smash hit Broadway musical ‘Waitress’ serves up a show so sweet you’ll want a slice.

  Making headlines with its female-led creative team, the musical features an original score by 7-time Grammy nominee Sara Bareilles, a book by acclaimed screenwriter Jessie Nelson, and direction by Tony Award winner Diane Paulus.

Katharine McPhee as Jenna with the cast of Waitress. Photo credit: Johan Persson

  Trapped in a tumultuous and toxic marriage, a drunk Jenna becomes pregnant after a one-night stand with her husband Earl. Very open about the fact that she does not want the baby, she resolves to keep it, and books an appointment to see her Doctor. Now retired, Jenna’s life-long Doctor has been replaced by Dr Pomatter and, after a few initial reluctancies and awkward exchanges, Jenna begins to feel things she hasn’t felt in a long time, and the two become embroiled in a passionate affair that rather profoundly transcends the realms of the professional. With a renewed zest for life, and a hope that things will change for the better, breaking the wheel that supports the continuous carbon copies of her daily routine, Jenna readies herself for an upcoming baking contest, confident that the prize money will propel her towards achieving her dreams.

  Lucie Jones is a delight as Jenna, striking a perfect balance between subdued vulnerability and forceful determination. Jones masterfully gives equal footing to every dimension of the character, from hard-working waitress to wide-eyed inventor, from lonely wife to reluctant mother, from embarrassed patient to lively lover. An extraordinary performance, oozing with passion and with heart, Jones could not be more suited to the role, and her poignant, evocative rendition of Act 2 ballad ‘She Used To Be Mine’ is breathtaking.

Katharine McPhee as Jenna, Laura Baldwin (Dawn) and Marisha Wallace (Becky) in Waitress. Photo credit: Johan Persson

  Jenna’s pies are as much a part of the character as she pours of herself into them, and Jones gives us a character who exists very much from within the kitchen, but very little without. Her whole life is grounded, pressed, crimped into the corners of the setting she uses to process, to mix, the elements of her life into one whole piece, hoping to make it more easily digestible. Her life might be messy, but Jenna does her best to roll out the bumps, to smooth things over, and starts making firm decisions for herself, and her baby.

  Laura Baldwin and Marisha Wallace are sensational as Jenna’s fellow waitresses and best friends Dawn and Becky. Baldwin’s fact and figure loving Dawn is utterly charming, quirks and all. Meticulously arranging sauce bottles, Dawn is comfortable with routine, reluctant to step out of her comfort zone. After crafting an online dating profile, Dawn meets Jack McBrayer’s fabulous Ogie, and after his somewhat premature yet hugely comical declarations of love, claiming that she can never get rid of him, Dawn eventually comes to realise that they were carved for each other.

David Hunter as Dr Pomatter with Katharine McPhee as Jenna in Waitress. Photo credit: Johan Persson

  Wallace’s witty Becky is wonderfully sassy, and not afraid to show Stephen Leask’s chef Cal who’s boss. Piers Bate is simply irresistible as the dashing Dr Pomatter, his chemistry with Jones’ Jenna one of an endearing awkwardness, which only serves to enhance its charm. Great support comes from Peter Hannah’s controlling, jealous, possessive Earl, Shaun Prendergast’s secretly soft diner owner Joe, and Kelly Agbowu’s no-nonsense Nurse Norma.

  A show radiating with female solidarity, one that undoubtedly prevails both onstage and off, the way all characters, but particularly the three female leads, interact with each other, is hugely touching, and certainly does not go unnoticed, the cherry on top of a great musical pie.

Katharine McPhee as Jenna with David Hunter as Dr Pomatter in Waitress. Photo credit: Johan Persson

  Creatives-wise, ‘Waitress’ has all the ingredients of a great show. Sara Bareilles’ incredible, moving and catchy score supports a progressive narrative arc, and Diane Paulus’ direction ensures the production moves along at an appropriate pace, with Scott Pask’s set design forming the perfect setting for this sweet show.

  Unbelievably delicious, devilishly good, ‘Waitress’ is a well-baked musical with a soft and gooey centre, that makes for a rich and satisfying treat.

  A melt-in-your-mouth musical that will warm your heart, ‘Waitress’ is guaranteed to occu-pie your thoughts for some time.

  It really is nice as pie!

Marisha Wallace (Becky), Katharine McPhee as Jenna and Laura Baldwin (Dawn) in Waitress. Photo credit: Johan Persson

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