Waitress The Musical Review | Opera House | Manchester
Serving up a culinary story based on the 2007 film, lyricist Sara Bareilles has revamped the indulgent romcom about pie genius Jenna as she remains trapped in a small town and a loveless marriage.
The family-friendly show is adapted perfectly for its live audience as the Opera House's scented set brings a homely feel to its warm diner setting. Primarily set at Joe’s Pie Diner, the production cooks up a fresh helping of quirky characters, despite its story having a much colder premise. We follow Jenna (Lucie Jones), whose only escape from her abusive husband and accidental pregnancy is a job that allows her to zen out crafting 27 different varieties of pie alongside a brand-new creation every day.
Despite being armed with a small sisterhood of supportive staff members, distracting herself with new recipes and a flirtatious doctor (Busted’s Matt Willis) who enjoys her experimental pastries, Jenna hopes to escape her life. Unfortunately, her only real chance of leaving appears to be winning a pie competition which would give her enough seed money to leave her unaffectionate husband and buy her own pie palace.
Considering the shows themes and easy-going plot, the Waitress musical may not be to everybody’s taste. However, the fan fuelled musical with A-star cast is a humble pick me up that brings a needed extra layer to its simple 2007 film. The original films writer, director and star, Adrienne Shelley was tragically killed in 2006, leaving the indie flick as her bittersweet finale farewell. Its heart-warming narrative is a straightforward affair, and its musical offers an entirely new score to accompany the charming tale. Bareille’s songs support the show's dry humour and tracks like She Used To Be Mine offer sincere moments in the adaption that showcase Jenna’s aspirations and Jones’ beautiful vocal range. Jones’ is also extremely likeable and believable as the depleted and browbeaten wife who has to sustain this gentle musical with intense solo performances.
One of the musicals biggest strengths lies in its entire ensemble cast, who are utilised as an extension of Jenna’s thoughts or offer light comedic relief. In spite of Jenna’s loveless life, Diane Paulus’ inventive direction ensures that the audience feel engulfed in the affection of its three female leads, offering a bright but realistic set, wrapped in exaggerated choreography and backed by a folksy backup band live on stage. The song A Soft Place To Land performed by the three waitresses, talks of their mothers and tradition as the identically dressed friends Dawn (Evelyn Hoskins) and Becky (Sandra Marvin) move in sync like an RnB group whilst lovingly backing up their friend. The women in the show are all open and supportive, but their old school beliefs and values leave little space for character growth and ultimately, the story does gloss over some of the bigger issues. Although with the added offering of powerhouse performances by Jones (which was a popular casting pick for the Opera House audience) Waitress the Musical hides a few surprise cherries in its fruity filling, skilfully adapting its hopeful story from its old-fashioned film.