Entering the Waitress theater, I was engulfed in warmth and, amazingly, the smell of pie. This welcome was the enticing beginning to a theatrical experience I won’t forget.
I was skeptical about the idea behind the show; its small-town issues seemed out of place amongst the larger than life subjects of recent musicals, such as Hamilton. However, I was absolutely blown away by the performance.
The plot follows Jenna, a twenty-something year old waitress in a rural diner who has a knack for baking creative pies. She is burdened with an unplanned pregnancy resulting from her unhappy marriage. The show is full of sweet, funny, and thought-provoking moments, such as the heartwarming redemption of a grumpy restaurant patron.Jenna and the people in her life are utterly believable and relatable in ways that are sometimes rare in theater. Moments like Jenna’s speech to her unborn child are heartbreakingly real and tender, leaving the audience completely captivated. The scenes unfolding on stage feel as though they are really happening — because they really could, and it feels like the audience members are being entrusted with a secret.
With music and lyrics by famous singer-songwriter Sara Bareilles, Waitress was bound to be a musical spectacle. Bareilles’ career began in 2007 with her first single, “Love Song,” and this show is her Broadway debut. In fact, Bareilles will be replacing Jessie Mueller, the original lead, in the show today, March 31, for a period of ten weeks.
Due to her illustrious career, I had high expectations for the musical aspect of Waitress, and so did a lot of the general public. These expectations were both met and exceeded. Bareilles crafted touching and sometimes humorous melodies to fit the original book by Jessie Nelson, which was also turned into a movie, barring the musical aspect. Bareilles’, Mueller’s, and the rest of the show’s merits were celebrated with nominations for Tony Awards, Drama Desk Awards, and even a nomination for a Grammy for Best Musical Theater Album. Christopher Fitzgerald, who plays Ogie, the lovable suitor for one of Jenna’s closest friends, won a Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical.
I might have been skeptical entering the theater, but after watching the show I found it hard to disagree with the critics — Waitress provides loveable, quirky entertainment.