- OnStage Massachusetts Critic
In the year of Hamilton I feel a touch of pity for any new show opening on the Great White Way. Waitress won’t have any problems creating a legacy for itself though. It gives you everything you could want- heart, laughs, a good cry (this was a one tissue show for me, a two tissue show for my friend), wonderful performances and songs that will firmly lodge themselves into your iPod’s most played list.
I had the good fortune to see Waitress yesterday at the Brooks Atkinson Theater in New York. From the moment you enter the theater, you know you’re in for a treat. Literally- they sell the most delicious mini-mason jar pies (how is that not on my Pinterest board?!) and the entire lobby smells like a bakery.
From what I remember the show sticks pretty faithfully to the movie. As a performer myself I’m always watching shows thinking, “what theatre group near me could pull this off?” This is one of those shows that a company focused on the acting vs. spectacle would love to sink their teeth into. The orchestra is small and on-stage the entire time (though not always visible) and I loved that at times they interacted with the cast. The set isn’t flashy as there’s really only four locations to dress. That simple approach allows you to focus on the actors and the action at hand. With this powerful cast that’s exactly what you want to do.
Everyone in this show shines and I’m not just saying that. Everyone plays up parts of their character for laughs without becoming caricatures. Nick Cordero as Earl is the right blend of jerk and something that prevented me from booing his character during the curtain call. Drew Gehling is like a bumbling, adorable cartoon character brought to life and his chemistry with Jessie was spot on. Kimiko Glenn and Keala Settle are the kind of friends every woman wants by her side and are amazingly talented actresses/singers to boot. The ensemble doesn’t speak much but they were an integral part of every scene. In fact, one of my favorite moments in the show features the ensemble women in the “Contraction Ballet”.
For all the buzz about Jessie Mueller, which is completely deserved, Christopher Fitzgerald had hands-down the most fun with his song, “Never Ever Getting Rid of Me”. I won’t give anything away but, for those of you like me who participated in the online dating scene, some of his lines are scary close to some of what’s out there… Be ready to laugh till you cry and scream yourself hoarse at his antics. I practically jumped out of my seat to give him a well-deserved standing-o at curtain call.
Again in any other year, Sara Bareilles’ music and lyrics would have won some serious hardware. The songs have a sound that can’t be categorized as merely pop or rock or musical theater. It’s all of that and none of that and it’s just beautiful to watch and hear. “A Soft Place to Land” is a wonderful moment sung between Jenna, Dawn and Becky with one simple guitar behind them. The harmonies and blend of these voices will give you chills. I know the chills were from the song because it was 90 degrees yesterday, the theater was sold out and I was in the mezzanine where heat collects.
By now you’ve seen or heard “She Used to Be Mine” (if you haven’t go to YouTube NOW, this article can wait) and I will tell you that while simply listening to it is powerful and good in its own right, what Jessie Mueller does live on stage is like nothing I’ve ever seen. The emotion written on her face is poured into every note she sings, every breath she takes. (Seriously that girl can hold and belt notes like nobody’s business. I don’t know where she stores that air but dang). How she manages to put herself out there like that 8x a week will stay with and inspire me for quite a while to come.
In short don’t make the mistake I did and wait a year before seeing Waitress. While I’m sure it will run for many, many months, see it now. See it with your significant other, make a girls day of it like I did, go by yourself and make a friend at the theater even but just see it. I promise you won’t be disappointed.