Sara Bareilles’ musical Waitress has a light, “sugar and butter”-induced theme, not only with its storyline but also with its songs, sets, and dialogue. While it does have catchy, toe-tapping melodies ranging from pop to country to ballad to retro, it seemed they either ended faster than they should have or they could have been more memorable, which may be in part because the show did not produce any well known signature song similar to Wicked’s Defying Gravity or Dear Evan Hansen’s Waving Through A Window. The musical staging and choreography did make up for it as it was not limited to the musical numbers but extended itself into scene transitions and interludes.
Overall, I’m not saying it wasn’t good because it does have lots of good and enjoyable moments, thanks in part to Jessie Nelson’s book, and of, course, Bareilles’ work. How else would it still be playing Broadway and London with possible future world-wide productions in the work?
I went into the show without any point of comparison, nor any familiarity with the musical numbers. I haven’t seen any previous production, not the 2007 Kerri Russel movie which it is based on, and have not – on purpose – listened to the cast recording which starred original Broadway casts Jessie Mueller, Keala Settle, and Kimiko Glenn, among others. Now having a listen to the recording as I write this as well as looking though images, I do feel this production, presented in Vancouver by the 2nd National Touring Cast as part of he 2019/20 Broadway Across Canada season held the show very well, capturing its true form.
The non-equity tour offers a very strong cast led by as Bailey McCall as Jenna, supported by Gabriella Marzetta (Dawn), Kennedy Salters (Becky), David Socolar (Dr. Pomatter), Brain Lundy (Ogie), and Michael R. Douglas (Joe), among others, not only vocally but also with great timing and presence. Backed by a busy ensemble that complimented every scene, they give a more purposeful presence via Lorin Latarro’s choreography re-created for the tour by Abbey O’Brien. Casting a local for the role of Lulu also adds a home-based ingredient, which serves as a draw for this production.
The band, visible at the background, provided very crisp sounds that, although overpowering the performers at times, adds a layer to the action going onstage without overdoing it and the colour palette of the scenic design, costumes, and lighting gave consistency to the entire look and feel of the show.
Waitress may not be my cup of tea, but there are certainly elements of it that I enjoyed and appreciated. Would I see it again? Maybe I will, but not in the next few years – maybe in the next iteration? If you are into contemporary rom-com type musicals though, it will be a show that you will definitely enjoy and I will assure you, this touring production will not disappoint.
Directed by Susanna Wolk based on the original work of Diane Paulus, Waitress continues to tour North America until June 2020.