Waitress: “Biblically Good”

Literary Review Editor | Rachel Farguson

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Having been listening to the Waitress soundtrack and watching performance clips for a good few months now, I was more than a little bit excited to finally get to see the show live. When our upper circle matinee tickets were upgraded to stalls tickets I was more excited still, but I am certain that this show would be as phenomenal from the back row as it would be from the front. This show is more an experience than merely a performance: a strong smell of cinnamon fills the entire theatre and pie stands can be found in the lobby for an unconventional, but very apt, interval snack.

Katherine McPhee is a phenomenal Jenna, giving a performance that is powerful but never over-acted. Her vocals were pitch-perfect throughout despite drastic changes in emotional tone between songs, as is required by the plot. Marisha Wallace and Laura Baldwin were equally impressive as Becky and Dawn, and their respective solo performances in ‘I Didn’t Plan It’ and ‘When He Sees Me’ served to enhance the understanding of their characters. David Hunter’s Dr Pomatter is endearing, and Jack McBrayer’s Ogie is wonderfully overstated, which, for this character, is very much a compliment.

The set is totally dynamic in a way that I don’t think I have ever seen before. The exterior scenery visible through the windows of Joe’s Pie Diner appears almost as a one-point perspective drawing. This perspective combined with the ever-changing sky that appears as a backdrop provides place to the diner, where many interior sets feel as though the three visible walls of the room exist in some kind of spatial vacuum. The impressive live band is stationed inside Joe’s Pie Diner, and so appears to exist both within and outside of the world of the story. Location changes are mostly visible, with furniture and set pieces moving on and off the stage on their tracks, creating a (paradoxically) more believable movement between spaces.

In watching performance clips before viewing the show live, YouTube commenters often spoke highly of the use of the ensemble, which is indeed incredibly impressive. The choreography is seamless, but still appears entirely natural. The ensemble and the perpetually moving set work in tandem, giving the illusion of a set that responds to the actors. Technical features such as lighting and sound were flawless, allowing McPhee’s Jenna to push against the fourth wall but never quite break it. She comes out of the action, but it is clear that in these instances she is lost in herself rather than actually divulging her feelings to the audience.

All in all, Waitress at the Adelphi Theatre is, as Dr Pomatter says of Jenna’s pies, “biblically good.”

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