Waitress -Musical by Sara Bareilles

Why see it:

  • Tender story
  • More engaging live than on film

Waitress delivers a wonderful story. It is dramatic, touching, clever, original, and surprising. It transitions well from film to live action. But why, oh why, is this a musical? Nothing is enhanced by mixing tunes into this good drama.

Dare I be critical? What would the creative team say? Perhaps one would answer via song, or Sara-nade me:

  • “Say what you wanna say
  • And let the words fall out
  • Honestly I wanna see you be brave.”

Imaginary recipe: First, bake Lulu’s Strawberry Dream Pie from Waitress; then make a second. The more the berrier. But if someone suggests improving the pair by stacking one atop the other, with icing between and more icing on the top and sides, then: STOP!

Do not create a “layer pie.” Neither pie lover nor cake lover will be accepting. (Boston Cream Pie? A misnomer, to be sure.) Adding good music to a good story can spoil the goodness. Analogies:

  • Dennis the Menace, tossing his self-made sandwich to the trash, lamented to his dog Ruff, “You’d think peanut butter and catsup would taste great together.” (But they don’t.)
  • Is a pastry with cheese a Danish? According to a Copenhagen author who bakes and blogs, those in Denmark would never, ever, put cheese on a pastry cake. “Because you can” does not mean you should.
  • A guitarist standing at a microphone enhances his craft by switching effortlessly to harmonica, then back to guitar. When that musician sits on a stool and also adds cymbals between his knees, he becomes something silly.

If I accept the songs as I would the harmonica, I would still perceive clashing sheets of metal when waitress Becky (Charity Angel Dawson) bumps and grinds through a tune at Joe’s Pie Diner. That’s silly and distracting.

What was delicious?
The pie names were clever. The stage sets were good. The secondary storyline of Dawn and Ogie (Lenne Klingaman and Jeremy Morse) was welcome. Octagenarian Joe (Bill Nolte) was curmudgeonly caustic on the outside, hiding sweetness within. Bryan Fenkart played doctor in the perfectly appropriate humble, stumble manner of Rob Petrie from The Dick Van Dyke Show, which I suppose is far too stale a reference.

What course to skip?
Jenna (Desi Oakley) was accomplished when singing sweet, soft, or strong, but her voice chafed during a few lines of excessive volume. My seat neighbor covered her ears (that would be to the “other side” of me, the unknown neighbor!).

What was missing?
Wardrobe! The ensemble appeared to be dressed in street clothes, a strange production choice. Did they arrive too late to get into costume?
Chemistry! Despite ample “sugar, butter, flour, …” this Dr. Pomatter and this Jenna did not perfectly mix. Without the proper interaction of ingredients, the whole creation could flop.

This Waitress did not flop. (Insert wordplay warning.) I don’t mean to pan the show. It’s a good story that didn’t rise to the point of filling every desire. A pizza me knows musicals are flat-out the sustenance of today’s theater – what audiences order most often. I like this touching tale of people and pies, so I should not expect to have my cake and … you know …

Viewed May 3, 2018, Durham Performing Arts Center, NC, USA

Cast of Waitress, May 3, 2018
Durham Performing Arts Center, NC
Cast of Waitress

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