Theatre Review: ‘Waitress’ at RBTL’s Auditorium Theatre

Jeremy Morse, Molly Hager, Jessie Mueller, Aisha Jackson and Stephanie Torns (Photo: Joan Marcus)

The moment I saw the cherry pie curtain I had a feeling this show was going to be something special. And when I heard the line, “Home is where your ass is.”, the tone was set.  The recipe for the performance was going to include equal parts hilarity and harshness. Jenna, Dawn, and Becky (Christine Dwyer, Melody A. Betts, and Ephie Aardema) are waitresses at Joe’s Diner in a Southern Indiana town where Jenna is known for her pie-baking prowess.

This show delivers every moment. Do not miss it.

Some people wear their hearts on their sleeves but Jenna bakes her emotions into each pie. On the outside, her strength goes into maintaining the sensitive balance in her marriage to a violent and controlling man. That is only a small slice of this rich portrayal of each character’s struggle to be true to themselves and insist on the love they deserve. The story shows three women supporting one another as they face these challenges with grace, and not so gracefully. In the course of the show you get to know them deeply and root for them to find happiness.

I could write 5 paragraphs just gushing over the amazing, split-second timing of the choreography—which included creatively-realized sets whipping under, over and around the ever-moving and ever-singing cast—it was magical! I loved the sets; especially the little diner kitchen that barely had enough room to fit Cal (Ryan G. Dunkin), the rather imposing cook.

The characters suck you in because they are so relatable and each one very clearly lets you know who they are. You enjoy your time getting to know them for so many reasons. Their voices are top notch for the up-tempo numbers like “What’s Inside”, “Bad Idea” and “Club Knocked Up”. The more serious moments are offset by Betts’ comedic timing and Aardema’s perfectly delivered one liners combined with a searing side-eye. But they are just the appetizers to Jeremy Morse’s hilariously quirky portrayal of Ogie—the lovesick Civil War reenactment understudy who hopes to win Dawn’s affections. Seriously, I laughed harder than I can remember ever laughing at a performance. Earl, Jenna’s husband is just creepy and menacing enough for you to hate him. You know you would protect your girlfriends from such a guy and you want to protect Jenna.

I thought each character was so well played I will feel remiss skipping one, although, for brevity’s sake I must. Dr. Pomatter, played by Steven Good, nailed his funny and awkward obstetrician’s role. Just what we want in an OB, right ladies? Lucky Jenna. And lastly, the aging OCD owner of the restaurant, Joe (Richard Kline), has you laughing as he sneakily sets you up to strum that last heartstring you didn’t know was yet un-strummed.

This show delivers every moment. Do not miss it.

Show Run-time: 2 hours and 30 min, including 1 intermission

Age Recommendation: 13+

“Waitress” runs June 4-9 at RBTL’s Auditorium Theatre, Rochester NY. For more information, click here.