By Jessie Nelson and Sara Bareilles. Until August 18 at the Ed Mirvish Theatre, 244 Victoria St. mirvish.com or 1-800-461-3333.
You may have heard of this rags-to-riches story before: there is an ordinary server in a diner who accomplishes her dreams. The big difference in Waitress, the Tony Award-winning musical, is that the rags for Jenna (Christine Dwyer) is her toxic relationship with Earl (Jeremy Woodward), and her riches are independence and freedom.
This heartwarming slice-of-life story provides both a realistic and optimistic perspective of our relationships and life goals. The opening number may make you feel skeptical that the show will be saturated with warm and fuzzies, but it quickly pivots from saccharine to sobering and serious as the central problem unravels: the troubles for our beloved pie-maker are exacerbated by an unplanned pregnancy.
Throughout this rollercoaster of emotion, we meet an eclectic roster of characters who support and help Jenna navigate throughout her journey. Becky (Melody A. Betts) and Dawn (Ephie Aardema) are Jenna’s dear and true friends who will help her in any way they can. Dr. Pomatter (Steven Good) is a handsome and affable doctor who turns Jenna’s emotions upside-down. And Joe (Richard Kline) is a grumpy regular customer, but who also cares deeply for his friendly server.
The truest delight in this show is the score by Sara Bareilles. Like a chalkboard menu listing tantalizing baked good options (which all end up being excellent choices), Waitress has a wide ranging mix of hit musical numbers. We are blessed for Sara’s versatility as Waitress showcases bluesy jazz, upbeat pop, catchy percussions, dramatic ballads, and even campy theatrics.
Ultimately, Jenna’s story isn’t an easy fairy tale. It shows us that in order for us to be happy, healthy, and safe in life, it requires hard work, the support of our loved ones, and the courage to make difficult decisions. This musical has a happy ending so it lets you have your pie-in-the-sky dreams, but it is also sincerely grounded with a real truth on emotional boundaries.
Waitress presents a dark reality of traditionally presented happy-go-lucky domestic relationships. But it also paints a hopeful vision in what may feel like bleak times. Like a sweet and tart strawberry rhubarb pie, Waitress successfully accomplishes an entertaining and inspiring balance between both spectrums.
Patrick enjoys theatre and is an amateur writer in Toronto.