Waitress the Musical: The Sweetest Thing in Philly This Week

by Marialena Rago
photo by Joan Marcus

A romantic musical comedy good enough to eat is the perfect gift for your Valentine (or Galentine)! Waitress, now at the Forrest Theatre, is a humorous, heartfelt tale based off of the 2007 movie starring Keri Russell and written and directed by the late Adrienne Shelly.

Jenna (Desi Oakley), a pie-baking waitress, discover’s she is pregnant with her husband’s child. Sweet? No. Bitter? Yes. She doesn’t want to be pregnant and she doesn’t even want to be married to her husband, Earl (Nick Bailey), who is abusive, manipulative and selfish. As if she didn’t have enough problems, Jenna begins an affair with her married and adorably awkward doctor, Jim Pomatter (Bryan Fenkart).

Her support system includes her close friends and fellow co-workers, both struggling with love and relationships of their own. Dawn (Emily Koch) is insecure about who will love her and fun-loving Becky (Charity Angél Dawson) is trying to make the best of things as she takes care of her invalid husband. Jenna’s only solace is in her pie’s, each one with a name that mirrors what is really going on inside her head (i.e “Betrayed by My Eggs Pie”).

The heart of this story is the catchy music written by “Love Song” singer, Sara Bareilles. Bareilles has a way of conveying emotions in her songs that just give you the chills and her work on this show is no exception. The 11 o’clock number, “She Used to Be Mine”, is a perfect example of how the audience feels Jenna’s pain of not being able to leave a hard situation and yearning to be the person who is strong enough to finally say, “enough”. The show isn’t a downer, though, and there are many scenes that will have you rolling in your seat crying happy tears. “Never Ever Getting Rid of Me”, sung and performed perfectly by Jeremy Morse, is full of laughs and physical comedy. It’s a stand-out performance in this spectacular musical.

Waitress is delicious, heartfelt, funny and real.  That is the beauty of Sara Bareilles’ music; it shows the ups and downs of life. Jenna’s story has parallels to her mother’s life and the musical, through interpretive dance, shows how the cycle of abuse can be hard to break. It’s really a great female power story; a new mother-to-be who has dreams of breaking free, but doesn’t quite know how to do it and the friends she turns to for support. It should come as no surprise that the creative team for this production is entirely female, the first in Broadway history. The book, music, direction and choreography are all credited to women who know how to write and stage a story for a female audience.

If you are looking for a way to extend Valentine’s Day with your sweetheart a bit longer, this show is a great fit. Don’t forget to get one of the mini pies at the bar to complete you sweet night out. Waitress is now at the Forrest Theater until February 18th

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