Waitress, New Wimbledon Theatre | Review


Waitress (UK Tour) 
New Wimbledon Theatre
Reviewed on Tuesday 7th September by Hope Priddle
★★★★

On the menu at Wimbledon Theatre this week, Waitress the Musical follows Jenna Hunterson (Lucie Jones)an aspiring baker who, with the support of her colleagues and dreamy gynecologist, imagines an escape from her provincial life and unhappy marriage. Based on the 2007 film by the late Adrienne Shelly, Waitress is a bittersweet story of friendship, love and finding yourselfwith (nearly) all the ingredients for a tasty theatrical treat.

 

Music and lyrics by Sara Bareilles add flavour and spice to this quaint story; her playful, folk-pop score is full of frolicking motifs, followed by some gorgeous reflective numbers. They accompany book by Jessie Nelson which is delightfully witty and whimsical throughout, but sometimes suffers from its more casual tone. 

 

We are introduced to a collective of characters who are wholly endearing yet undeniably flawed, and it is refreshing to spend time with such imperfect and compromised characters. However, their poor choices often lack consequence and the stakes never quite feel high enough. Likewise, the shows treatment of domestic violence is lacking. Her abusive marriage to tip-stealing husband Earl - played by Tamlyn Hendersonwho nonetheless deftly balances the fine line between comedic stock villain and insidious manipulator - is explored in a just a few short scenes which are uncomfortably inserted into the narrative. Though pitched as a feminist drama, any moral message is half baked.

 

Jones steals our heart as weary waitress Jenna, giving a sensitive and nuanced performance which perfectly reflects the heartache, anguish and disappointment of our begrudgingly pregnant protagonist. Her buttery vocals are rich and controlled; her control and clarity unsurpassed. Jones’ soaring rendition of She Used To Be Mine across a silent auditorium scored a well-deserved mid-show ovation.

 

Jenna’s colleagues are equally well cast. Evelyn Hoskins is totally loveable as the adorably anxious Dawn, whose slow burning affection and excitement for new beau Ogie, brought to life with a welcome touch of innocence and youthfulness by George Crawford, is joyous to watch. Sandra Marvin similarly packs a punch as the feisty, lively yet loyal Becky. 

 

The duo provides comfort and advice to the expectant mother as she cautiously begins to imagine a new life for herself and her baby. Waitress offers such a lovely, intimate insight into female friendship, and it is in these quieter moments that the show really lands. As Dr Pomatter, Jenna’s forbidden love interest, Matt Willis proves himself to be a highly capable actor, capturing the character’s goofy and bumbling demeanour with ease. It is just a shame that his slightly nasally vocals are lost in his duets with Jones.

 

Lorin Latarro’s choreography is inspired, with instructive and empathetic gesturing by the ensemble used to cleverly mirror the movements of the lead characters. As Jenna goes into labour during Contraction Balletfemale quartet pulsate and swell perfectly in time. The ensemble is so in sync throughout and are truly mesmerising to watch.

 

Latarro’s routines are complemented by tastefully restrained lighting design (Ken Billington) that features but a series of coloured spotlights. Likewise, both set (Scott Pask) and costume (Suttirat Anne Larlarbare simplistic, if not a tad twee, but offer a sense of familiarity and warmth which gives the show heart. final special mention must go to on-stage band that seamlessly integrate themselves into the diner landscape – you wonder if their music is meant to be diegetic given how often we see into Jenna’s mind as she creates her fantastical pies.  

 

Waitress isn’t perfect, but it most certainly serves the audience with a little slice of happiness pie. Surely they’ll be coming back for second helpings?


Photo credit: Johan Persson

1 comment

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