Erin Karll, Contributing Critic - St. Louis
‘Waitress’ continues this year's Fabulous Fox Theatre’s season. Based off of the film by Adrienne Shelley the story follows ‘Jenna’ a waitress who is known for her amazing pies. ‘Jenna’ finds herself struggling to be free from a cycle of abuse and finding the confidence within to grow. She discovers she is pregnant and ponders what that means to her future. Written by Grammy award winner Sara Bareilles the original score is charming, funny, and compelling.
‘Jenna’ is played by Christine Dwyer. With stunning vocals, she makes the character her own. There are many covers and recorded versions of these songs, but Dwyer turns them all on their ear and holds the audience from the first note. Following the arc of ‘Jenna’ that Dwyer gives is just a purely sweet treat for the audience. We follow from amazing highs and joys to deep lows of sadness and hurt with ease in the hands of Dwyer. She is joined serving the diner's guest by ‘Becky’ (Maiesha McQueen) and ‘Dawn’ (Ephie Aardema). These three work together like veterans who have known each other since birth. The show is full strong harmonizes between Dwyer, McQueen, and Aardema. Both ‘Dawn’ and ‘Becky’ go through some trials and joys of their own with ‘Jenna,’ and I was on the edge of my seat to see what happens next as these women supported each other through all of life’s happenings.
Jeremy Morse plays ‘Ogie’ and steals scenes with humor and energy. The crowd could not stop laughing at the dancing and poetry breaks. On the other side of the scale is Matt DeAngelis who plays ‘Jenna’s’ husband ‘Earl.’ Dwyer and DeAngelis are a real-life couple, and the chemistry is visible on stage. ‘Earl’ is a villain before he is even seen, and DeAngelis uses that power to make the audience feel very strongly, showing a wonderful range with touches of vulnerability while also being the villain. The charm is overflowing the pie pans when ‘Dr. Pomatter’ (Steven Good) becomes ‘Jenna’s’ OB/GYN. Good shows the sweet and caring side for this character that is lost and confused himself. Another great treat for the audience is the character of ‘Lulu.’ The production hires local actors to play the young child, and the two alternating roles in St Louis will be Penelope Garcia and Norah Morely, both 5 years old.
The biggest draw for me with this show is the transitions and pacing. Nothing ever felt rushed or drawn out. The ensemble moved like a machine and aided the storytelling. Even the pauses for emphases were smooth. They even drew me in deeper to the story when usually that is what takes me out. The choreography of Lorin Latarro flows effortlessly and leads to some genuinely stunning moments during the dreamlike transitions, also helped by lighting and design by Ken Billington and Scott Pask. Under the director Diane Paulus this team created a delicious piece of art that is touching and thoughtful.
This production is amazing. The cast is talented in their storytelling and vocals. I would arrive early and treat yourself to a pie in a jar at the concession stand. If you like powerful shows with strong messages about self-worth and love, this is the show for you. A few dashes of ‘girl power’ and sprinkling of charm, baked in radio-ready tunes is what you will see with ‘Waitress’ onstage at the Fabulous Fox Theatre.
‘Waitress’ runs until April 7th. Tickets can be found through MetroTix.com or calling 314-534-1111. Show information can be found at Waitressthemusical.com.