Encore Michigan

Waitress at The Music Hall is as delicious as really good pie

Review March 16, 2022 David Kiley

DETROIT, Mich.–There’s nothing like a truly great piece of pie. And Waitress is as good as it gets for a night out a big Broadway show.

Waitress is part of Broadway in Detroit series, and is playing at The Music Hall for Performing Arts through March 20. This week’s show picks up where the touring show left off two years ago when the run got interrupted by Covid-19.

Based on the 2007 film of the same name, Waitress centers on Jenna, a waitress and exceptional pie baker in a small town diner whose marriage to an abusive husband is complicated when she becomes pregnant from an admitted drunken night at home.

Conceiving new ideas for pies, as her Mother did, is her solace and escape from her reality. She complicates her life a bit more when she sparks an affair with her married OB/GYN who has only been in town for a month.

Jenna is a terrific part for rising musical theatre actresses, with a strong story that is centered on the character facing multiple obstacles and complications, and some excellent songs, especially the pen-ultimate number, “Everything Changes.” Jisel Soleil Ayon more than does justice to the character as the rooting for her by the audience is palpable.

One of the strengths of Waitress is the comedy and delight of the secondary stories and supporting characters. Jenna’s diner colleagues are funny and every audience roots for them to be happy and to find love. Dawn (Gabriella Marzetta) is the relentlessly geeky diamond-in-the-rough who loves the History Channel and regularly plays Betsy Ross in Revolutionary War re-enactments. Through a dating app, she meets Ogie (Brian Lundy), also a relentlessly geeky Revolutionary re-enactor who breaks into spontaneous bad poetry. And the writers give Ogie a very funny crowd-pleaser tune, “Never Ever Getting Rid of Me.” Fellow Waitress Becky (Dominique Kent) is a sassy, randy gal as saucy as the biscuits and gravy on the menu, who comically laments having a disabled husband at home who needs a lot of looking after. Even Diner cook and boss Joe is lovable as he puts on a gruff exterior, but is clearly a mush-hearted bloke who enjoys the daytime company of his three waitresses who wrap him around their fingers. Earl, Jenna’s dirtbag abusive husband who is hated by every audience with whom I have seen this show is ably played by Shawn W. Smith.

One of the plot questions in this show is just how kosher is it for a married OB-GYN to have an affair with a married pregnant patient. Over the years, as I have asked this question about this show, a clear majority of women have told me that they have no issue with it because all the choices in this sub-plot are Jenna’s. The writers try to square the question by having Dr. Pommater (David Socolar) express a lot of remorse and hesitation both in spoken word and song.

Again, the writing of the Waitress book is strong as it wraps up the sub-plots by the end of the show smartly and to the general delight of audiences.

While some of the themes of Waitress are clearly not for young kids, parents can make decisions as to whether their kids are mature enough for the content as well as a conversation about domestic violence, an affair with one’s OB-GYN, and a scene in which two cast members are appearing to have sex on stage.

All in all, though, this production of Waitress is excellent and is a great reason to get back to the theatre. Editor’s note: Broadway in Detroit productions are checking vaccine cards at the door and require masking while inside the threatre.

Week of 5/23/2022

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