The Theatreguide.London Review
Adelphi Theatre Spring 2019 -
This import from
Broadway is a light, tuneful, upbeat and thoroughly conventional
paint-by-numbers musical sure to please those who want nothing more
than a couple of hours of entertainment.
Care has been taken that
not be contaminated by even a single germ of originality, and that is
part of its charm, as it happily traverses familiar territory with
Jessie Nelson's book
follows the 2007 film by
Adrienne Shelly in telling the story of small-town diner waitress
Actually, telling you
that much should make the next few
Jenna is married to a
redneck sexist. The diner cook is fat and nasty. Jenna's friends are
two fellow waitresses, the sassy one and the mousy one. And the new
doctor in town is handsome, married and pie-loving.
If you can't
write the rest of the story yourself, you've never seen a movie in
your life. There are, I'll acknowledge, a couple of details you might
not predict – the ending is more Woman Power than Cinderella –
but nothing that will surprise or disappoint.
Jenna's one talent is
in baking an unending series of inventive and ecstasy-generating
pies, and the there is a running gag of pie names that relate to plot
developments, while the songs by Sara Bareilles include several that
life to pies or pie-making.
(There's also a plot
line involving a
national pie-making contest, but that turns out to be, in the
script's vernacular, an 'Essentially Irrelevant Red Herring Pie.')
despite a pleasing country-music flavour, don't
really begin to register until late in the first act, when a comic
number by the mousy waitress's nerdy boyfriend doesn't quite stop the
show but at least brings it alive.
The best song in the
show is 'Bad Idea,' a first-act-ending
duet between Jenna and the doctor, its passion
and internal drama suggesting Jim Steinman (i.e., you can imagine
Meat Loaf singing it).
Act Two is musically
stronger, with the
obligatory soul-charged I-want-to-enjoy-life number for the sassy
waitress and some touching don't-miss-your-chances advice from an
Katharine McPhee invests
Jenna with an attractive mix of
insecurity and power, keeping our sympathy and well-wishes
She does stop the show
with her big dramatic eleven
o'clock number, in which Jenna sings of how fragile she feels while
the singer shows us how much strength the character doesn't fully
realise she has.
There is solid, if somewhat generic (i.e., I don't feel that understudies would be much different) support from Marisha Wallace (sassy one), Laura Baldwin (mousy one), David Hunter (doctor) and the rest of the cast.
Waitress does not advance the art form as Company does, nor does it stretch its emotional capacity like Phantom and Les Miz. It's just comfort-food fun, as enjoyable and easy to digest as a good piece of pie.
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