Waitress (Adelphi Theatre)

With a week to press night, Waitress is proving to have the makings of another hit from across the pond.

Based on Adrienne Shelly’s 2007 film, with music and lyrics by Sara Bareilles, this new musical centres on Jenna (Katharine McPhee) and her two fellow waitresses at Joe’s Diner.

Katharine McPhee, Laura Baldwin and Marisha Wallace.Photo credit Johan Persson.

Katharine McPhee, Laura Baldwin and Marisha Wallace. Photo credit Johan Persson.

Jenna is unhappily stuck in a marriage made when she and Earl (Peter Hannah) were both too young and foolish: now he belittles her gifts and takes her money.

Becky (Marisha Wallace) cares for a sick husband and finds knee-trembling fun on the side with her boss Cal (Stephen Leask), while nerdy Dawn (Laura Baldwin) finds love with the proposterous amateur magician Okie (Jack McBrayer).

When Jenna finds herself pregnant after a night of drunk sex with the husband she loathes, it is a catalyst both for her retreat into dreamy recipes she creates for all situations, and a stab at happiness with her married doctor (David Hunter).

Jack McBrayer and Marisha Wallace

Jack McBrayer and Marisha Wallace. Photo credit Johan Persson

The first act is largely comic, despite the spectre of domestic violence. Dawn and Okie’s courtship gives us a lot of fun, and Becky’s sass has free reign.

By the second act, we see Jenna and Becky more clearly, even Cal, who states he is “happy enough”. And old Joe (Shaun Prendergast) is the bringer of fairy dust and happy endings of the kind that just don’t happen in real life.

Katharine McPhee. Photo credit Johan Persson.

Katharine McPhee. Photo credit Johan Persson.

With a score which manages to be both witty and at times, emotionally engaging (Jenna’s big number “She Used To Be Mine”), Waitress is a welcome addition to the musical scene.

It feels almost churlish to have misgivings about some plot points around female empowerment, infidelity and obsession, but they stop this show just short of being perfect.

Last night there was a slight mishap early on with a missing piece of pie, deftly handled in character by all; and there are on-set jokes around the names of pies to amuse in a normal run.

Waitress continues at the Adelphi and is booking until the 19th October 2019.

About Louise Penn

Writer, reviewer, fan. View all posts by Louise Penn

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