Waitress – Brooks Atkinson Theatre, New York

Waitress MUSICALORIGINAL BROOKS ATKINSON THEATRE 256 W. 47TH ST. WAITRESS - CAST Jessie Mueller Jessie Mueller as Jenna Keala Settle Keala Settle as Becky Kimiko Glenn Kimiko Glenn as Dawn Drew Gehling Drew Gehling as Dr. Pomatter Nick Cordero Nick Cordero as Earl Dakin Matthews Dakin Matthews as Joe Eric Anderson Eric Anderson as Cal Christopher Fitzgerald Christopher Fitzgerald as Ogie Charity Angel Dawson Charity Angél Dawson as Nurse Norma Charity Angel Dawson Charity Angél Dawson as Ensemble Thay Floyd Thay Floyd as Ensemble Molly Hager Molly Hager as Ensemble Aisha Jackson Aisha Jackson as Ensemble Claire Keane Claire Keane as Lulu McKenna Keane McKenna Keane as Lulu Jeremy Morse Jeremy Morse as Ensemble Stephanie Torns Stephanie Torns as Ensemble Ryan Vasquez Ryan Vasquez as Ensemble Henry Gottfried Henry Gottfried Swing Max Kumangai Max Kumangai Swing Ragan Pharris Ragan Pharris Swing Ragan Pharris Ragan Pharris as Jenna (Understudy) Ragan Pharris Ragan Pharris as Dawn (Understudy) Stephanie Torns Stephanie Torns as Jenna (Understudy) Stephanie Torns Stephanie Torns as Dawn (Understudy) Charity Angel Dawson Charity Angél Dawson as Becky (Understudy) Molly Hager Molly Hager as Becky (Understudy) Henry Gottfried Henry Gottfried as Dr. Pomatter (Understudy) Henry Gottfried Henry Gottfried as Earl (Understudy) Henry Gottfried Henry Gottfried as Ogie (Understudy) Ryan Vasquez Ryan Vasquez as Dr. Pomatter (Understudy) Ryan Vasquez Ryan Vasquez as Earl (Understudy) Max Kumangai Max Kumangai as Joe (Understudy) Max Kumangai Max Kumangai as Cal (Understudy) Jeremy Morse Jeremy Morse as Ogie (Understudy) Thay Floyd Thay Floyd as Cal (Understudy) WAITRESS - MUSIC CREDITS Person Placeholder Nadia DiGiallonardo Musical Director Person Placeholder Nadia DiGiallonardo Music Supervisor Adam Michael Kaufman Adam Michael Kaufman Associate Music Supervisor John Miller John Miller Music Coordinator Person Placeholder Nadia DiGiallonardo Conductor Person Placeholder Rich Mercurio Drums Person Placeholder Nadia DiGiallonardo Piano Person Placeholder Jamie Edwards Keyboard Person Placeholder Meghan Toohey Guitar Person Placeholder Lee Nadel Bass Person Placeholder Yair Evnine Cello/Guitar Person Placeholder Jamie Edwards Keyboard Programmer John Miller John Miller Music Contractor WAITRESS - PRODUCTION CREDITS Person Placeholder Jessie Nelson Book Person Placeholder Sara Bareilles Music Person Placeholder Sara Bareilles Lyrics Person Placeholder Adrienne Shelley Based upon the motion picture written by Diane Paulus Diane Paulus Director Lorin Latarro Lorin Latarro Choreographer Scott Pask Scott Pask Scenic Design Person Placeholder Suttirat Larlarb Costume Design Christopher Akerlind Christopher Akerlind Lighting Design Jonathan Deans Jonathan Deans Sound Design Person Placeholder Rachel Padula-Shufelt Wig & Make Up Design Person Placeholder Jason Allen Wig & Make Up Design Person Placeholder Nancy Harrington Associate Director Abbey O'Brien Abbey O'Brien Associate Choreographer Person Placeholder Orit Jacoby Carroll Associate Scenic Designer Person Placeholder Martin Schnellinger Associate Costume Designer Person Placeholder Drew Levy Associate Sound Designer/Programmer Mia Walker Mia Walker Assistant Director Person Placeholder Lauren Alvarez Assistant Scenic Designer Person Placeholder Jerome Martin Assistant Scenic Designer Person Placeholder Lizzie Donelan Assistant Scenic Designer Person Placeholder Jennifer Reiser Assistant Lighting Designer Max Kumangai Max Kumangai Dance Captain Person Placeholder Nadia DiGiallonardo Arrangements Person Placeholder Sara Bareilles Orchestrations Person Placeholder The Waitress Band Orchestrations Juniper Street Productions Juniper Street Productions Production Management Thomas Gates Thomas J. Gates Production Stage Manager Person Placeholder Matthew Lacey Stage Manager Person Placeholder Becky Fleming Assistant Stage Manager Thomas Schall Thomas Schall Fight Consultant Stephanie Torns Stephanie Torns Fight Captain Person Placeholder Dawn-Elin Fraser Dialect Coach Person Placeholder Telsey + Company Casting Patrick Goodwin Patrick Goodwin Casting Person Placeholder Amanda Murray Associate General Manager Person Placeholder Eduardo Castro Company Manager Person Placeholder Boneau / Bryan-Brown General Press Representative Adrian Bryan-Brown Adrian Bryan-Brown Press Representative Person Placeholder Jackie Green Press Representative Person Placeholder Kelly Guiod Press Representative Person Placeholder SPOTCo, Inc. Advertising Person Placeholder Joan Marcus Production Photographer Person Placeholder B.J. Holt General Manager Barry & Fran Weissler Barry & Fran Weissler Producer Person Placeholder Norton and Elayne Herrick Producer Person Placeholder David I. Berley Producer Person Placeholder Independent Presenters Network Producer Person Placeholder A.C. Orange International Producer Peter May Peter May Producer Person Placeholder Michael Roiff Producer Person Placeholder Ken Schur Producer Marisa Sechrest Marisa Sechrest Producer Person Placeholder Jam Theatricals Producer Person Placeholder 42nd.club/Square 1 Theatrics Producer Person Placeholder Benjamin Simpson & Joseph Longthorne/Shira Friedman Producer Person Placeholder The American Repertory Theater Producer Person Placeholder Brett England Associate Producer Person Placeholder Daniel M. Posener Associate Producer Alecia Parker Alecia Parker Executive Producer

Jessie Mueller in Waitress at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre, New York. Picture: Joan Marcus

Waitress continues at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre, New York.

Star rating: three stars ★ ★ ★ ✩ ✩

How many songs can one write about pies, making them, eating them, seeing them as a metaphor for life and love?

That was undoubtedly the challenge facing singer-songwriter Sara Bareilles when she sat down to create the music and lyrics for Waitress, the new Broadway musical, whose title character has a singular talent for baking extraordinarily succulent pies.

The news is that Bareilles has met the challenge handily, turning out some five songs that are consumed by or touch on the matter of pies. They add up to almost a third of her tasty score, which mixes funky pop rhythms with soulful ballads and is one of the main attractions of this problematic piece.

In addition to the full pie songs, there is the musical incantation “sugar, butter, flour”, which is repeated with mystical reverence throughout the proceedings, and there are times indeed when the show threatens to become too sweet for its own good, even as it depicts its heroine’s travails.

Despite her talent for pies, Jenna, portrayed with irresistible heart and soul by Jessie Mueller, is in pretty bad straits. She works long hours in a diner in one of those small Southern towns which seem to offer no escape on the neighbouring highway marked by the familiar row of telephone poles receding into the distance. (Such poles are a signature of these forlorn American towns, and they’re here, to be sure, on the main backdrop of Scott Pask’s evocative set design.)

Not only does Jenna report to work early to bake her pies, which are the diner’s main attractions, she also serves tables, turning over her tip money to her brutish, controlling husband, Earl.

Jenna has fallen out of love with Earl long ago, but now she is pregnant with his child. It’s a child she does not want, but she is determined to give birth. And to top things off, sexual chemistry, perhaps love, has been ignited between Jenna and her gynecologist, Dr Pomatter, who has only recently come to town and is also married.

Despite all this, it’s hopefully not a spoiler to tell you that things eventually turn out rather well for Jenna.

With its final curtain, Waitress can claim the nomenclature of a ‘feel-good musical’, even though the ambience feels a little ersatz.

Featuring a book by Jessie Nelson based on the well-received 2007 indie film written and directed by the late Adrienne Shelley, the show is an uneasy recipe of homespun grit and happy-go-lucky musical comedy conventions, obvious in its unconvincing sunshiny conclusion and most notably in the comic characters that surround Jenna in the diner.

They’re almost a parade of constructs that have grown not only overly familiar but tired as well, not only through musicals but through generations of laugh-tracked television sitcoms.

They include Jenna’s waitress colleagues, the endlessly smart-mouthed Becky (Keala Settle) and the giddy Dawn (Kimiko Glenn); the peculiar (poetry-writing, Irish-step dancing) tax accountant Ogie (Christopher Fitzgerald), who becomes Dawn’s beau; the gruff, ever-insulting diner manager, Cal (Eric Anderson), and the crusty old guy, Joe (Dakin Matthews), who owns the diner.

They’re all endowed with top-notch Broadway-standard performances and each of them, except for Cal, is given at least one big character number, allowing the performers to show off their own indelible stuff. But the script – even with the many deft touches of director Diane Paulus – fails to really bring them to life, and they occasionally seem more like clutter than comedy relief.

Oddly enough for a show that boasts an all-female creative team, two of the most compelling characters are men: the husband Earl and the gynecologist Pomatter.

Earl’s loutishness seems almost infinite, but then he is given a scene where he breaks down, afraid that Jenna plans to leave him, and he reveals his own insecurities and his need for her. Played to the hilt by Nick Cordero, it’s deeply and surprisingly moving, despite the character’s basic villainy.

At the other end of the likeability scale is Drew Gehling’s Pomatter. With his wonderfully portrayed unsureness in his new surroundings and his daffy light-headedness in his passion for Jenna and her pies, he registers as an extremely winning innocent, but he eventually lets us see an underlying strength and an enviable amount of backbone.

Still, the show finds its greatest strength in the forthright performance of Mueller. Bereft of any glamorous accoutrements, her work is especially vibrant, making transparent every turn in Jesse’s psyche, from her ethereal joy in simply massaging dough to the ambivalence about her pregnancy and the depths of her despair in her unhappiness with her marriage. And she brings a vocal luster and emotional depth to Bareilles’ often meandering but graceful melody lines, accompanied by an unobtrusive but lively onstage six-piece band.

Mueller comes to Waitress fresh from her Tony Award-winning stance in Beautiful: The Carole King Musical and Waitress seems to have been cooked up as a menu special to provide the performer with a chance for another slice of Tony.

Ron Cohen

www.waitressthemusical.com

Readers may also be interested in:

She Loves Me – Roundabout Theatre Company’s Studio 54, New York – Review

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