Review of 'Waitress'

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The hit Broadway show “Waitress” finally transfers to London's West End starring “American Idol” star “Katharine McPhee”. I was a huge fan of “Alice” when it was on television…er…quite some time ago, which had a similar premise to “Waitress”: Three woman coming to terms with their life as waitresses at a road-side café. “Waitress” shows this theme to still be very much relevant today.

Jenna (Katharine McPhee) is a waitress working in a road-side diner in rural America where she is known for the pies she makes fresh every day. She lives with her abusive husband Earl. When she finds out she is pregnant she begins to question the life she has made for herself which is not helped with an affair with her charming doctor, Dr. Pomatter. Her two other waitress colleagues the exuberant Becky (Marisha Wallace) and the introverted Dawn (Laura Baldwin) are always supportive though things are changing for them as well with Becky starting a shocking relationship with their harsh but ultimately warm-hearted boss Cal (Stephen Leask) and Dawn coming out of her show with the rather unusual, equally geeky, personality of Ogie (Jack McBrayer). On learning of a local pie contest with a $20,000 prize Jenna is determined to win and buy her way out of her life…But sometimes reality gets in the way of the best of dreams.

“Waitress” largely takes place in “Joe's Pie Diner” which is an amazing set that features the kitchen and bar seating area on the left, a series of booth seats along a wall at the back, several tables and chairs towards the front of the stage, and the live band dominating the right side of the set (which is great to see, often they are seen but not heard in theatre). The staging is very dynamic, changing very quickly to keep up with the pace of the story. The first 30 minutes goes by incredibly quickly so those that have trouble with fast-talking American accents may very well get lost right from the outset but the pace does slow somewhat as the story progresses allowing everyone to get up to speed. The first act gets us up to speed then after the interval there is a somewhat slower paced leading gradually to the finale that ties up the story's various threads.

McPhee has a wonderful, warm, voice but also does a reasonable job at acting and choreography (there is no real dancing here though several good musical numbers). Wallace is a bundle of energy as Wallace and has an incredibly deep and rich voice while Baldwin's mellow tones are, unfortunately, left behind barring her solo “When he Sees Me” early in the first act. The three of them together, when it only occasionally happens, sadly, are sublime as they blend into a seamless whole. The supporting cast are also very strong with the character roles they fill with no weak links in the bunch. This is not a big Broadway show but one that requires a bit of a delicate touch though with some fun elements thrown in (a particular scene of couples “dry humping” immediately springs to mind as I recall the performance).

The music is fun though walking out I could not recall any of the pieces, particularly though particularly moving are “Everything Changes” during the finale, “Bad Idea” when Jenna and Dr Pomatter flirt with one another as well as tear-jerker “She Used to be Mine”.

Generally a fun musical but one that has heart-hitting truths about how just knowing what is best does not mean that is what happens, sometimes life is more complicated. The finale seems slightly forced though seems obvious in retrospect. The cast are amazing and I suspect this will run for quite some time.

Rating:

Review Date: 2019-03-04



Adelphi Theatre

Location: London (England)

Address: Adelphi Theatre Strand London WC2R 0NS

Public Transport: TUBE Charing Cross TUBE Leicester Square TUBE Covent Garden

Telephone: +44 (0) 20 3725 7060

URL: http://www.reallyusefultheatres.co.uk/our-theatres/adelphi

Situated right on the Strand on the edge of the West End the Adelphi may be a bit smaller but it is well known for staging some of the longest running shows in town. The art deco exterior extends to the interior with fairly bland and boring decor throughout.