Opening up! Waitress returns to Philadelphia through April 3rd!

-Brenda Hillegas
photo by Jeremy Daniel

Joe’s Pie Diner is open in Philadelphia! Come get your fill of a sweet story all about baking up delicious pies and big dreams. Waitress is at the Academy of Music through April 3rd and if you haven’t seen this one yet, get on over there before the coffee gets cold!

Meet Jenna (a beautiful performance by Jisel Soleil Ayon)- the diner’s resident pie-maker who wants a better life for herself and a way out of her marriage to Earl (Shawn W. Smith). She pours her thoughts into her creations- like the “Betrayed By My Eggs Pie” and “A Little Wild Wild Berry Pie”- and leans on her best friends Dawn and Becky. All of them are finding themselves (and love) and encourage one another to take risks and take care of each other.

Waitress is based on the 2007 movie gem of the same name and was adapted for Broadway in 2016. It’s the first Broadway musical in history to have four women in the top creative team spots-book by Jessie Nelson, score by Grammy Award-winning singer/songwriter Sara Bareilles (composer of “Love Song” and “Brave”), choreography by Lorin Latarro, and direction by Tony Award-winner Diane Paulus. 

I’ve seen Waitress twice before, once with Sara Barielles and once with Desi Oakley. Both are Waitress royalty if you ask me. But this particular cast on tour right now, especially Jisel Soleil Ayon, are powerhouses in their roles. “She Used to be Mine” is a gorgeous song and Ayon absolutely shines. You’ll hold your breath as you watch her- the audience clearly loves the song and she received a well-deserved long applause. This music will stick with you.

When Jenna falls for her doctor (David Socolar is so funny and on point in this role), “Bad Idea” reprise had the audience howling and you’ll laugh until tears fall down your face. While Waitress is heartwarming and shows the perseverance of strong willed Jenna, Becky and Dawn, there are many scenes like the reprise of “Bad Idea” that will have you grinning and chuckling more than you have in a long time. Awkward and adorable Dawn (Gabriella Marzetta) and Ogie (Brian Lundy) have stand out performances with “When He Sees Me” ad “Never Ever Getting Rid of Me”, respectively. They give these songs their all. Becky’s Act 2 number “I Didn’t Plan It” is passionately sung by Dominique Kent and encapsulates the message of the show- these women didn’t expect to be living the life they ended up with; don’t judge them for wanting more. Like a slice of pie with whipped cream, cherry and a side of french fries- this show has it all.

Though the show closed on Broadway in early 2020, it returned for a brief period in September of 2021 with Sara Bareilles as Jenna. It’s the first show I personally saw after the 18 month theatre shut down because it’s so comforting, funny and warm. Waitress was the perfect welcome back. Drop by the diner while Jenna and friends are in Philadelphia. It only takes a taste to be addicted to this musical. Tickets are available here.

When a baking contest in a nearby county — and a satisfying encounter with someone new — show Jenna a chance at a fresh start, she must find the courage to seize it. 

Waitresses Jenna, Becky and Dawn spend their days at a little pie diner in a small town. Each morning, Jenna bakes the pies and names them after her thoughts-

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