Three relatably funny female leads are at the centre of this beautiful musical pie with comedy and romance as its core ingredients.
What started out as an indie film written by Adrienne Shelly, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2007, turned into a smash hit on stage starting out on Broadway in 2016 with an all-female production team and Shelly as its heart.
Shelly declared Waitress ‘a love letter to my baby’; a strong theme throughout the show as Jenna attempts on several occasions to speak to her unborn child, who she is reluctant to bring into the world. Director Alex Sumner-Hughes portrayed these moments perfectly, shining an agonising spotlight on Jenna that represent the social pressures of motherhood and internal worry of the inability to bond with or have a maternal instinct towards her child.
Seeing Waitress for the first time last night at Curve with lead Jenna played by understudy Aimée Fisher, it's a show about friendship, struggles behind closed doors, new beginnings, independence, passion, and the realism of small town life.
Strangely wonderful to see real-life ingredients used in the many baking scenes (whether those were real eggs I’m not sure), the actors didn’t mind getting messy and weren’t precious about getting flour all over their costumes adding a tasteful touch of realism to the story.
The ensemble group was slick and meticulously well-choreographed as they provided vital movements to creatively pass items to the cast. Their movements were performed beautifully and the audience was torn between focusing on the main characters and these wonderful ensemble members. And on-stage band members fit so well into the scenes that you almost don’t notice they’re really playing those instruments until a few scenes in.
Joe’s pie diner (a gorgeously detailed set) is where Jenna, Becky and Dawn work as waitresses. The musical revolves around Jenna Hunterson who is a master at putting on a brace face for work and to take her mind off her abusive husband Earl, played brilliantly by Tamlyn Henderson. But her friends Becky and Dawn see straight through her optimistic and bright smile.
Rather than just providing support and the voice of reason to Jenna, Becky (Sandra Marvin) and Dawn (Evelyn Hoskins) have their own love stories to tell. Whether it’s being too awkward to date or caring for a sick loved one, they prove everyone has relationships worries and difficulties. Marvin and Hoskins are great to watch and appear to have a genuine connection with Aimée Fisher in the role of Jenna.
Our Jenna last night was played by understudy Fisher. She was perfect from the get go. Her effortless voice was sensational, particularly in her imperfect rendition of She Used To Be Mine. It’s the flagship song of the show and a gift for any performer to sing on stage. Rather than sing it flawlessly, the breaks in her voice in the first half of the song produced teary eyes and goose pimples as she belted out the second half.
Busted’s Matt Jay-Willis plays Dr Pomatter,
Jenna’s love interest. He’s brilliantly awkward and simultaneously charismatic. Saucy, expressive love scenes were hilariously and heart-warningly played between him and Fisher. Their fiery sweet chemistry on stage was tastefully convincing. ‘Bad Idea’ sung by the two is exciting and you find them immorally willing their completely off-limits affair. It is disappointing though that Dr Pomatter’s goodbye to Jenna is fleeting which leaves the audience sad and confused at the betrayal of his dreamily cute and bubbly wife. I think the theme pursues here though as for whatever reason, Dr Pomatter wasn’t happy in his relationship. He married young and clearly hadn’t had much life experience prior to that. Maybe it’s a message that relationships are complicated and often misunderstood.
Jenna’s confrontation with Earl stimulates the audience into rapturous applause as she demonstrates her bravery and independence.
Miachael Starke’s performance as Old Joe tugs at the heart strings. His relationship with Jenna is kind and caring and Starke comes across as the grumpiest, most neurotic, sweetest character. The audience can empathise with his rendition of country song ‘Take it From an Old Man’.
A special mention must go to Dawn’s boyfriend Ogie played by George Crawford for a very memorable and stand-out performance. His zealous energy and unique charm caused not only Dawn but the whole audience to fall for him. ‘Never Ever Getting Rid of Me’ was a pure delight.
See Waitress at Curve until Saturday, January 29.
Written by Kerry Smith
Kerry is editor of Cross Production's Niche Magazine in Leicester and has a degree in film and journalism. She writes about business news, local people, entertainment, and has a particular interest in theatre.