Waitress musical review: A deliciously IRRESISTIBLE slice of love and life – What a TREAT
Browsing the menu of London shows not so long ago, it was hard to escape the dominance of jukebox musicals, some admittedly a little half-baked. This year, however, already has the glorious revival of Sondheim’s Company and the sublime Follies, as well as the joyous Come From Away and the insanely entertaining Six. Soaring on the glorious music and lyrics by Sarah Bareilles (most famous fotr that 2007 chart hit Love Song) Waitress stands tall and proud among them. Quite simply, it is food for the soul. This is a show that is as comforting as Momma’s apple pie and the values of friendship, trust and self-worth couldn’t be more timely. As the beaming lady next to me said at the end: “This is just what we need right now.”
Crucially, the show’s inherent sweetness never becomes sickly. Katharine McPhee as Jenna and David Hunter as Dr Pomatter may fall in love and sweep the audience swooning along as they seek to somehow save each other, but both are also married and must first learn to face and save themselves.
The show faces the complexities of unhappy and, in Jenna’s upsettingly well-rendered case, abusive relationships, but the smart book and lyrics neither judge nor excuse. Everything is lensed through a hokey hick setting but the universal truths feel just as real to a modern big city crowd.
Both leads are wonderful, awkward and yearning as they seek someone to see them, desperate for a moment to feel something. It’s a credit to their talents that they are just as hilarious trying to have illicit hook-ups during Bad Idea as they are tart on It Only Takes A Taste and tender on You Matter To Me.
McPhee also brings the house down with the heartbreaking and anthemic She Used To Be Mine. SirAndrew Lloyd Webber, two rows behind me on opening night, might have been wishing he’d written that one…
Marisha Wallace comes fresh from a barnstorming lead role as Effie in Dreamgirls and brings a similar level of sass and seriously huge lungs to the role of gal pal Becky, most notably on the epic I Didn’t Plan It which blew the roof off an already thrilled theatre.
Laura Baldwin is delightful ditsy as the commitment-phobic Dawn who meets her match in the absolutely ridiculous but loveable Ogie, played with gusto by 30 Rock’s iconic Jack McBrayer. Turtles, tables (yes, he loves her like a table) and American Revolution reenactments have never been so cute.
The supporting cast, chorus and house band are uniformly excellent.
Special note must be given to Lorin Latarro’s subtly sensational choreography. It rarely strays into traditional dance, but instead breathes and moves through the players as an extension of the music. The last time I saw this so well done was on screen in Baby Driver.
Praise too for Scott Pask’s cinematic set design, simple yet versatile as it switches from widescreen panorama to Jenna’s claustrophic home.
Waitress is unashamedly a show by women and about women but for everyone.
It wears its heart on its polycotton and plaid sleeves. It restores your faith in humanity and lightens your step just a little as you head back out into the night, smiling and humming to yourself.
What an delightfully warm, witty, wise and oh so wonderful treat. Personally, I can’t wait for a second helping.
WAITRESS IS PLAYING NOW AT THE ADELPHI THEATRE: TICKETS AND MORE INFO HERE