“Sugar, butter, flour…” these three words, ingredients, are the first thing an audience in the Brooks Atkinson Theatre hears every night. The pauses between each word leaves the audience listening to what’s happening next. Or, as the first song of the show asks “what’s inside?” And many are asking what’s inside the intriguing production of Waitress: The Musical, and what exactly is it that helps to make it the most interesting and beautiful show on Broadway this season.
Waitress tells the story of Jenna (Jessie Mueller), a young girl who is working her days away at Joe’s Diner making pies for customers, and getting through the day as best as she can. Jenna’s pies are special though because of the unique recipes that come with them. She is married to Earl (Nick Cordero), a slacker of a husband who treats Jenna poorly, and takes her money for himself. Jenna is encouraged by her co-workers and friends Dawn (Kimiko Glenn) and Becky (Keala Settle) to leave Earl and open up her own pie shop, but when Jenna finds out she is pregnant with Earl’s baby, she feels obligated to be tied down to their broken relationship. Jenna begins seeing her new doctor, Dr. Pomatter (Drew Gehling) and when Jenna begins to feel loved and appreciated, they begin to develop feelings for each other. When Jenna has a moment of realization that she can’t keep living the way she does, she stashes away money so she can enter a pie contest that will give her just enough money to leave Earl and start a life for her and her baby. But conflict steps in and Jenna is stuck between figuring out how to deal with her situation and find the best for her and her future baby.
The story manages to carry a balance of both serious and humour, which is tastefully done. The story does address serious issues of marital abuse, and the fear of leaving someone, as well as stepping outside of a comfort zone. Jenna’s character is one who has settled, but she wants to strive for more, because she knows she can, but due to her situation is afraid to step in a new territory.
There is an astounding amount of talent in this cast. With Tony winner Mueller leading the cast, Glenn (Orange is the New Black, Spring Awakening), and Settle (Les Mis), bring their own side stories and songs that make you love more than just the lead characters. Each actor is heavily invested in their characters, and it’s visible in how they portray them on stage.
The music from the show is all original content by Grammy nominee Sara Bareilles. Bareilles recorded songs from the musical called “What’s Inside: Songs From Waitress” featuring the main single “She Used to Be Mine” which received positive reviews.
Notably, this show leads an all female team including direction by Diane Paulus (Hair, Pippin), book by Jessie Nelson (I Am Sam, Love the Coopers), and choreography by Lorin Latarro (American Idiot).
The story carries a lot of heart and a sense of feel-good. You leave the show feeling a need to make a change for your own life as the audience sees with Jenna’s. There are elements of love and heartbreak, but above all, hope. There is a lot of hope for the characters as well as how you see yourself in the characters. You want the characters to do well, and in how they strive after their dreams, they eventually see everything fall into place as the outcome. The production is real. Some of the situations are real ones that we go through in our everyday living, making it a touching story and a loving one. All of these are the perfect ingredients to make for the most beautiful production on Broadway this season.