Regional Reviews: Florida - West Coast
This musical has the distinction of being only the second ever to reach Broadway with an all-female creative team (Elizabeth Swardos' Runaways was the first). After gestation at American Repertory Theatre in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Waitress opened on Broadway in April 2016 and played 1500 plus performances before closing earlier this month. The current tour, a non-Equity one, is the second, after a two-year long Equity tour which finished in August 2019.
The story follows Jenna, played by Bailey McCall, a waitress and pie maker at Joe's Diner. Right beside her are buddies Dawn (Gabriella Marzetta) and Becky (Kennedy Salters). Jenna is stuck in an abusive marriage to Earl (Clayton Howe) and, after she finds herself unexpectedly pregnant, winds up in an affair with her OB-GYN, Doctor Jim Pomatter (David Socolar). The other women find romance of their own and thanks to curmudgeonly Joe (Michael R. Douglass), owner of the diner, Jenna finds her true happiness.
All of this is set to a country-pop score by which includes several strong solo numbers ("What Baking Can Do" for Jenna and "I Didn't Plan It" for Becky) and some decent duets ("You Will Still Be Mine" for Earl and Jenna and "You Matter to Me" for Dr. Pomatter and Jenna). Ensemble songs, meant to move the plot along, are perhaps a little less effective, but the score gives lie to the lament that they don't write songs you can hum anymore.
The story is full of stock characters and in the hands of really superb musical theater performers, they can come to life in ways that this cast is mostly unable to muster. All have solid voices, but none rock the 1700-seat Van Wezel, despite receiving a standing ovation at the performance I attended. I noticed this more in the second act when Jenna's big eleven o'clock number "She Used to Be Mine" didn't crawl into my bones the way it might have, and then the finale "Everything Changes" felt a bit flat. Looking across the roster of women who played Jenna in New York, I bet they brought what Ms. McCall only suggests.
Original direction by Diane Paulus is re-created by Susanna Wolk. Original choreography by Lorin Latarro is re-created by Abbey O'Brien, and this is where the sheen loses much of its luster. Costume design by Suttirat Anne Larlarb, set design by Scott Pask, and sound design by Jonathan Deans are from the originals, while lighting design by Ken Billington and wig and make-up design by Richard Mawbey are created for this Networks Presentations tour. All in all, the tour package maintains a reasonably professional level.
Waitress runs through January 26, 2020, at Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, 777 N Tamiami Trail, Sarasota FL. For tickets and information, please call 800-826-9303 or visit www.VanWezel.org. For more information on the tour visit waitresstour.com/
Principle Cast (in order of appearance):