×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Broadway Review: ‘Waitress’ The Musical

With:
Jessie Mueller, Keala Settle, Kimiko Glenn, Drew Gehling, Nick Cordero, Dakin Matthews, Eric Anderson, Christopher Fitzgerald

Waitress” owes its sweetness to the mouth-watering goodness of Jessie Mueller. As a diner waitress named Jenna, Mueller is such a honey bun, she melts us like the mounds of butter that make Jenna’s homemade pies so luscious. The musical resorts to comic overkill to create characters based on Adrienne Shelly’s 2007 indie rom-com. But Sara Bareilles has written a charming score that suits the quirky material and Mueller’s dazzling voice and endearing personality.

“Beautiful” was no fluke. Mueller can really act as well as sing her heart out. She’s enchanting as Jenna, who is stuck in a miserable marriage and working as a waitress in a smalltown diner (Scott Pask executed the sunny design of this 1950s throwback) somewhere down south.

In the sweet opening number (“What’s Inside”), Jenna leads the company in illustrating how she bakes her pies — which are loaded with sugar, as well as creative ingredients like bacon and blueberry — and names them for how she’s feeling that day. In “What Baking Can Do,” she goes deeper and reveals how creating new pies helps her get through her unhappy life.

Jenna’s only friends are her fellow waitresses, Becky and Dawn (Keala Settle and Kimiko Glenn, nice pipes, but knocking themselves out to be funny). As good friends, they encourage her to enter a pie-baking contest that would win her enough of a nest egg to leave her lazy lug of a husband, Earl. Nick Cordero is stuck in the thankless role of Earl, who is a pure caricature of an insensitive husband — selfish and dreadfully overbearing, but so spineless, he isn’t even abusive.

The discovery that Jenna is pregnant kills her escape plan. But it does lead to an affair with the new (and happily married) pediatrician, Dr. Pomatter, appealingly shy and awkward in Drew Gehling’s performance. This likeable character returns in Act Two, which is one good reason for sticking it out through Act One, which helmer Diane Paulus, who navigated the show through its development at the American Repertory Theater, unwisely chose to play for broad caricature and slapstick laughs.

There are good things in the second act, which is more lyrical and less silly. Gehling’s eerily beautiful voice turns his love duet with Mueller (“You Matter to Me”) into a heartbreaker. Dakin Matthews, as the avuncular diner owner who is actually named Joe, steps out and into the audience’s arms with his warm and witty solo, “Take It From an Old Man.” One of the waitresses, Keala Settle’s Becky, stops vamping and gets serious in “I Didn’t Plan It.” And Mueller allows a proud and self-respecting Jenna to claim her independence in “She Used to Be Mine.” It’s a nice moment. Too bad it took so long to get here.

Broadway Review: 'Waitress' The Musical

Brooks Atkinson Theater; 1,045 seats; $169 top

Production: A presentation by Barry and Fran Weissler, and Norton and Elayne Herrick, with David I. Berley, Independent Presenters Network, A.C. Orange International, Peter May, Michael Roiff, Ken Schur, Marisa Sechrest, Jam Theatricals, 42nd club / Square 1 Theaters, Benjamin Simpson & Joseph Longthorne / Shira Friedman, and the American Repertory Theater of a musical in two acts with book by Jessie Nelson and music & lyrics by Sara Bareilles, based on the motion picture written by Adrienne Shelly.  Opened April 24, 2016. Reviewed April 21. Running time: TWO HOURS, 35 MIN.

Creative: Directed by Diane Paulus. Choreographed by Lorin Latarro. Sets, Scott Pask; costumes, Suttirat Anne Larlarb; lighting, Christopher Akerlind; sound, Jonathan Deans; wigs & makeup, Rachel Padula Shufelt & Jason Allen; orchestrations, Sara Bareilles & the Waitress Band; music supervision & arrangements, Nadia DiGiallonardo; production stage manager, Thomas J. Gates.

Cast: Jessie Mueller, Keala Settle, Kimiko Glenn, Drew Gehling, Nick Cordero, Dakin Matthews, Eric Anderson, Christopher Fitzgerald

More Legit

  • CAROL CHANNING HERSCHFELD. Actress Carol Channing

    Remembering Carol Channing: A Master of Channeling the Power of Personality

    There was only one Carol Channing, and her outsize personality was a source of delight to many fans — and imitators. Gerard Alessandrini’s stage spoof “Forbidden Broadway” had many incarnations over the years, including the 1994 edition when an audience member was selected every evening to come onstage and impersonate Carol Channing with the cast. [...]

  • Editorial use only. No book cover

    Viola Davis, Lin-Manuel Miranda Among Celebrities Remembering Carol Channing

    Viola Davis, Lin-Manuel Miranda and Bernadette Peters are among the slew of celebrities taking to Twitter to pay tribute to late singer, comedienne and actress Carol Channing. Known for her starring roles in Broadway’s “Hello Dolly!” and “Gentleman Prefer Blondes,” the legend of the stage and screen died Tuesday at her home in Rancho Mirage, [...]

  • What the Constitution Means to Me

    Listen: How Things Got Scary in 'What the Constitution Means to Me'

    For a decade, writer-performer Heidi Schreck had wanted to write a play inspired by her experiences as a teen debater. But over the years the show started to develop into something both urgently political and deeply personal — and things got scary. In the Broadway-bound “What the Constitution Means to Me,” Schreck reimagines her speech-and-debate [...]

  • Carol Channing Dead

    Carol Channing, Star of Broadway's 'Hello, Dolly!' and 'Gentlemen Prefer Blondes,' Dies at 97

    Larger-than-life musical stage personality Carol Channing, who immortalized the characters of Lorelei Lee in “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” and Dolly Gallagher Levi in “Hello, Dolly!,” has died. She was 97. Channing died Tuesday of natural causes at her home in Rancho Mirage, Calif. Her publicist B. Harlan Boll confirmed the news. He wrote, “It is with [...]

  • 'What the Constitution Means to Me'

    'What the Constitution Means to Me' Transfers to Broadway

    “What the Constitution Means to Me,” a buzzy Off-Broadway production that counts Hillary Clinton and Gloria Steinem among its fans, is making the move uptown. The play will come to Broadway this spring for a 12-week limited run at the Helen Hayes Theater. “What the Constitution Means to Me” is one part civics lesson, one [...]

  • Choir Boy review

    Broadway Review: 'Choir Boy'

    Honestly, I was afraid that “Choir Boy” — the sweetly exuberant account of a gifted prep school boy’s coming of age, written by “Moonlight” Oscar winner Tarell Alvin McCraney — would be swallowed up in a Broadway house, after winning us over in an Off Broadway staging in 2013.  But aside from the odd set [...]

  • Jason Robert Brown

    Listen: How Ariana Grande Got Jason Robert Brown to Madison Square Garden

    Broadway composer Jason Robert Brown never expected to find himself performing onstage at Madison Square Garden. But he did — thanks to his pal Ariana Grande. Brown met Grande before she was a superstar, when she was in the 2008 Broadway cast of his teen musical “13.” The two have kept in touch ever since [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content