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.

Theatre Review: ‘Waitress’ at Shea’s Buffalo Theatre

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

There is a phenomenon happening right now in the world of musical theatre. If you are an avid theatergoer, you know exactly what it is. Pop stars are stepping up to take a crack at writing the music for big Broadway shows. Almost everyday, you will read about a new pop star trying their hand at writing the next big splash to visit the Great White Way. Pop sensation Sara Bareilles tries her hand, and succeeds, with “Waitress.”

If there is one thing that can warm you up in Buffalo this February, it’s ‘Waitress.’ Go see this show!

Based on the film by Adrienne Shelly, “Waitress” tells the story of Jenna (Desi Oakley), a pie maker and server at a little diner, who is trying to find an out from her mundane life. She has a marriage that is falling apart, she feels stuck in her small town, and she just wants something more. Jenna’s friends, Becky (Charity Angel Dawson) and Dawn (Lenne Klingman) are there to give Jenna the support she needs, when it is discovered that Jenna is pregnant. Through in a bunch of pie and baking metaphors, and you have a fun musical that will put a smile on your face.

“Waitress” is special not only because a pop star has written the music and lyrics for the show, but because of the all female creative team that worked together to bring this story to the stage. This is an incredibly rare occurrence, and one that I hope continues to occur as time progresses. Bareilles’ score is complemented with a book by Jessie Nelson, and is directed by Diane Paulus. This group of women show that they have exactly what it takes to create a fantastic musical experience.

Going in, I have to be honest, I did not want to like this show. It seemed to me to be a story that I would hear about on Lifetime or Hallmark channel. Quickly, this show shows its true colors. It is full of comedy, physical humor, it’s charming, and possesses great heart. I loved it! I was entertained from the opening number to the final bow.

Leading the show in the role of Jenna is Desi Oakley, who carries this show on her back and does it rightfully so. She is fantastic. Her voice rings throughout the theater as she belts out the lyrics written by Bareilles. Her comedic abilities, and timing is priceless. She will bring a smile to your face, and a song to your heart.

Charity Angél Dawson and Lenne Klingman as Becky and Dawn respectfully, are flat out hysterical. Both of these supporting ladies take their characters, and have no fear at all on stage as they perform. Their artistic choices are highly entertaining, and they keep this production chugging forward.

A crowd pleaser is Jeremy Morse as Ogie. His dancing, physical comedy, facial expressions, and overall demeanor are so powerful, the audience is left breathless from laughter. Every time Morse enters the stage, the audience just waits to see what antics he has cooked up for us. He is comic gold.

The rest of the ensemble in this production assists in telling a wonderful story that you are sure to enjoy.

Scot Pask’s set design is refreshing, simple, and effective, and his incorporation of the orchestra on stage as part of the action is a great addition.

Overall, this production is top notch. If there is one thing that can warm you up in Buffalo this February, it’s ‘Waitress.’ Go see this show!

Running Time: 2 Hours 30 Minutes with one 15-minute intermission.

Advisory: Some suggestive content.

“Waitress” runs until February 11, 2018, and is presented at Shea’s Buffalo Theatre. For more information, click here.