Tony Award-winning musical ‘Waitress’ shows that the pursuit of one’s happiness isn’t as easy-as-pie

By Jessie Nelson and Sara Bareilles. Until August 18 at the Ed Mirvish Theatre, 244 Victoria St. 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.

‘The Little Prince: Reimagined’ reminds grown-ups of what it is like to be a child again

Translated and adapted by Richard Lam. Directed by Jon Lachlan Stewart. Until April 13 at the Streetcar Crowsnest, 345 Carlaw Ave. or 647-341-7390.

It is a rare opportunity to be enlightened by tender, creative, and whimsical storytelling. And so if you are fortunate enough to have the chance, I urge you to go see The Little Prince: Reimagined. This debut production by the Puzzle Piece company is able to magically capture the quintessence of the classic namesake novella. This show is imaginative and spellbinding in the way that only phenomenal children’s stories can be.

At the beginning of the play, we are greeted by the narrator/pilot (Richard Lam). He guides us through our initiation to watch the show, a ritual that children and adults are very familiar with – making a paper airplane. We then slowly discover how both paper and airplane become important creative dramatic elements and motifs while we are taken on this journey of getting to know him and his new friend, the little prince (Kira Hall). 

I sometimes forget that we are in this intimate theatre space at Dundas and Carlaw as we travel with the little prince throughout the universe, visiting planets and meeting eclectic characters. These situations represent specific commentaries of human nature; although Lam does a few departures from the original story, these creative choices pay off very well. His modernization of these characters and their vignettes makes an already universal story feel more timely in our digital age. The themes of adulthood, loneliness, materialism, and working without purpose still resonate. 

Despite The Little Prince being one of the most popular books of 20th century France, you will never be ceased to be amazed by the stream of artistic surprises this production has in store for you. The show is a tour de force that playfully dances with lights, shadows, puppets and music. 

One of the most signature lessons of this story comes from the quote, “The most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or touched – they are felt with the heart.” I’m not arguing with Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s masterpiece writing, but I will say this: The Little Prince: Reimagined is a beautiful show and it must be seen to be experienced. Your inner child will thank you for it. 

Patrick enjoys theatre and is an amateur writer in Toronto.