“It left me desperately craving for a freshly-baked pie”
Review by Mariah Hess
original music and lyrics by Sara Bareilles
original direction by Diane Paulus, recreated by Susanna Wolk
book written by Jessie Nelson
choreography by Lorin Latarro, recreated by Abbey O’Brien
“Sugar, butter, flour.”
When these three words echoed through the Northern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium, goosebumps ran the length my arms. The time had finally come for me to take a taste of the final Edmonton show of the hit musical, Waitress, which was put on by Broadway Across Canada.
The musical opened with the protagonist, Jenna, an expert pie-maker and waitress at Joe’s pie diner. Bailey McCall, who made her Off-Broadway debut as Penny in The Big Bang Theory: A Pop-Rock Musical Parody, brought Jenna to life as the spotlight shone on her. She mixed ingredients in a silver bowl with a large wooden spoon. She stared out into the audience, singing “What’s Inside.” I was immediately mesmerized by her voice. My eyes were drawn to the dancers who gracefully brought different ingredients for her to add to the bowl.
A smooth transition followed with the more upbeat “Opening Up,” as the set began to change. We were introduced to the main setting of the show: Joe’s Pie Diner. This number captured a cheerful atmosphere that was fueled by the main three female characters: Jenna, Dawn (Gabriella Marzetta), and Becky (Kennedy Salters). I immediately sensed a strong chemistry between the three.
Their friendship was bonded together through love and humour. One notable scene that captured this bond was when they collectively entered the bathroom to support Jenna while she took a pregnancy test. This support came out of love. The trio presented their humour through their interactions, with Dawn delivering her line: “do not insert the test stick into your vagina.”
Eruptions of laughter echoed through the audience.
My favourite scenes were those with Ogie, who was Dawn’s love interest. Brian Lundy, making his National Tour debut, captured the absurd humour of his character – one that is nerdy, persistent, and weirdly charming. Laughter never failed to escape me as I watched him.
Ogie was the unsung hero of the musical. The audience exploded with laughter as he spit out (terribly funny) on-the-spot poetry, danced around the stage, and persisted for Dawn’s love. His number “I Love You Like a Table,” showed this absurdity with the title speaking for itself.
While this musical was filled with hilarious scenes and numbers, it also carried a very emotional element. Jenna dealt with an abusive husband. She had a baby on the way and this was something that she was not initially happy about. In the midst of these highly-stressful situations, she struggled with her internal self. All she could cling on to was her pie-making.
She wondered if she had done enough, or if she will be enough for her child.
The most emotional scene for me was the number “You Matter to Me.” This was the first time she acknowledged her unborn child without fear. She said:
I hope someday, somebody wants to hold you for twenty minutes straight
They don’t pull away, they don’t look at your face
And they don’t try to kiss you
All they do is wrap you up in their arms and hold on tight without an ounce of selfishness in it
I hope you become addicted, baby
I hope you become addicted to sayin’ things
And having them matter to someone.
I began to realize how Jenna’s life was coming full circle. Her mother, who reappeared frequently in her dreams, paved the path for Jenna by being kind, gentle, and teaching the secrets of pie making. In the present, Jenna struggled with her identity, feeling lost and disempowered by her husband.
However, the promise of a new birth subsequently seemed to promise a new life all together. This made me follow an emotional path, beginning with feelings of hopelessness and defeat, to feelings of renewal and empowerment. From her mother, to Jenna, to her baby, the three generations were seamlessly intertwined by holding onto hope and kindness, not letting their unfair worlds harden their hearts.
Bailey McCall did a magnificent job carrying out the responsibility to connect these three generations. She lured the audience in with her passionate and emotional portrayal of Jenna. Her powerful voice that rang through the theatre purposely trembled at just the right moments, making me hold my breath as I intently watched to see what her next step would be.
In an interview, the cast members were asked what ingredients made Waitress, and they said: love, heart, dreams, laughter, female empowerment, bravery and friendship.
I got a taste of each of these “ingredients.”
I found love, heart and friendship at the center of Jenna – in her interactions with her friends, Dr. Pomatter, her baby, and pie-making.
I found dreams, female empowerment, and bravery through Jenna – in her desire to leave her abusive marriage and make a better life for her and her baby.
I found laughter at the heart of each character – all of them had their unique characteristics, and they never failed to bring comedic light to tough situations.
Although I am not an expert pie-maker like Jenna, this story took me on an unforgettable emotional ride as I empathized with her. I was rooting for her. Somehow, this musical made me laugh and cry, all while inspiring me to take charge of my own life and create my own recipes for happiness.
Not to mention, it left me desperately craving for a freshly-baked pie.