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Review: Waitress the musical at the Adelphi Theatre, in London's West End

By Molly Mileham-Chappell

Broadway’s newest musical delivery has just arrived, piping hot, in the West End - and it all revolves around food, friends and feelings.

Waitress, which features music and lyrics by pop singer-songwriter Sara Bareilles, is based on the 2007 indie film of the same name about a diner pie-maker named Jenna, who is trapped in an unhappy marriage and uses her baking skills as escapism from her troubles - including an unexpected pregnancy and consequential affair with her gynecologist.

Sound bonkers? It is a bit, but it’s a riot and life-affirming all at the same time… Much like the pies Jenna creates with wacky ingredients, which ‘tell all her secrets, but disguise them’.

Waitress production images. All photo credit : Johan Persson (8083712)
Waitress production images. All photo credit : Johan Persson (8083712)

Currently playing at the Adelphi Theatre on Strand, the show certainly brings something different to the London theatre scene.

Nominated for four Tony Awards when it first played in New York, the show has everything you’d expect from a modern day musical - from out-loud laughs to fighting-back-the-tears moments.

The production itself feels very American - from the music to the humour to small-town storyline. Plus, what other theatre in the UK bakes sweet pies at the venue as you walk in for ambience? (Not that I’m complaining…)

At the helm is Katherine McPhee as Jenna, a former American Idol runner-up and star of the hit TV show Smash. Previously playing the role on Broadway, McPhee is a power house and a church mouse, all at the same time. Her spine-tingling vocals mixed with her soft acting qualities made her a joy to watch. Her rendition of the ballad ‘She Used To Be Mine’ was beautiful, and I found myself genuinely rooting for Jenna to be happy and escape her unloving husband Earl, played by Peter Hannah.

Equally, it would have been good to see more stage time between the pair to have a better understanding of their relationship, compared to the gawky but lovable Dr. Pomatter, played by David Hunter.

Waitress production images. All photo credit : Johan Persson (8083708)
Waitress production images. All photo credit : Johan Persson (8083708)

Dr. Pomatter was easily my favourite character. His likable qualities created some conflicting feelings, in the fact that he embarks on an illicit affair with his vulnerable patient - but it seems okay... because he’s nice... It made me see two sides to the story, and the difference between making decisions with your heart and head.

It’s not the only morally-dubious topic to be addressed either - there’s financial deception, an online date who practically becomes a stalker and what it really means to be a mother… all wrapped up in sugar, butter, flour and a catchy score.

Waitress production images. All photo credit : Johan Persson (8083701)
Waitress production images. All photo credit : Johan Persson (8083701)

The music itself is a perfect blend of vibrant and heartfelt. Highlights for me were the more upbeat numbers, such as ‘The Negative’, performed by Marisha Wallace and Laura Baldwin as friends Becky and Dawn respectively, and Never Ever Getting Rid Of Me, sung by Jack McBrayer as Ogie, Dawn’s overly-keen but hysterically funny boyfriend.

Special mention should also be made to Scott Pask for the set design and Ken Billington for lighting, with revolving cases of pies on either side of the stage, as well as popping neon lights.

Waitress production images. All photo credit : Johan Persson (8083703)
Waitress production images. All photo credit : Johan Persson (8083703)

Despite my mixed feelings towards the ethics of the plotline, there’s a slice of something for everyone in this show.

This was proved by the men in their mid-30s sat next to me cackling with laughter throughout, despite me previously believing it would have a predominantly female audience.

But it’s certainly worth a watch, and you can make up your own mind. By addressing real-life conundrums, it speaks to us all about what it truly means to be happy.

Details

Waitress the musical is currently playing at the Adelphi Theatre in the West End. For further details, visit waitressthemusical.co.uk

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