Theater review: Musical 'Waitress' brings sugar, spice and everything nice to OKC's Civic Center Music Hall
An abbreviated version of this review will run in Friday's Weekend Life section of The Oklahoman. To read my interview with "Waitress" book writer Jessie Nelson, click here.
Theater review: Musical 'Waitress' brings sugar, spice and everything nice to Civic Center
As sweet as a slice of French silk, as tart as a piece of lemon meringue and as funny as a cream pie to the face, “Waitress” cooks up an empowering story warmed through with the full array of human emotions.
The four-time Tony Award-nominated musical is adapted from one of my favorite films of the 21st century so far, an indelible bittersweet drama written, directed and co-starring the late Adrienne Shelly. Playing the Civic Center through Sunday, the national tour of “Waitress,” which also is still running on Broadway, manages to maintain the intimacy of Shelly’s film while dishing up a fancy song-and-dance spectacle.
The appealing Christine Dwyer plays Jenna Hunterson, an unhappily married small-town waitress and baker renowned for channeling her emotional turmoil into innovative pastries with names like Deep S—t, er, Dish Blueberry Bacon Pie and Betrayed by My Eggs Pie. The latter is a response to the news that she’s accidentally pregnant with the child of her drunken, abusive husband, Earl (Matt DeAngelis).
She gets plenty of support from her unlucky-in-love fellow waitresses Becky (Maiesha McQueen), a sassy soul married to an invalid, unappreciative husband, and Dawn (Ephie Aardema), an exacting lonely heart lacking in confidence, as well as her curmudgeonly boss Joe (Richard Kline), who owns the diner where she works. But Jenna’s dreary life gets a needed dash of sugar and spice when she starts an impassioned, ill-advised affair with the town’s new gynecologist, the adorkable Dr. Jim Pomatter (Steven Good).
Just as the film became the uncommon movie helmed by a female auteur, the musical, directed by Tony winner Diane Paulus (“Hair,” “Pippin”), is the rare Broadway show boasting an all-female creative team.
Acclaimed screenwriter and first-time playwright Jessie Nelson’s (“Stepmom”) book whips up the humor and pathos of the film, while another theater newcomer, seven-time Grammy-nominated pop star Sara Bareilles, stirs up quite the menu of lively songs, including the multilayered anthem “Opening Up,” the cleverly worded “Bad Idea” and the emotionally powerful “She Used to Be Mine,” which showcases Dwyer’s impressive vocal range. The playful numbers “Never Getting Rid of Me” and “I Love You Like a Table” gave the scenery-chewing Jeremy Morse ample opportunity to steal the show as the Dawn’s flamboyantly nerdy would-be beau Ogie.
Lorin Latarro’s (“Les Dangereuse Liasons”) fresh choreography transforms the culinary arts into an intricate ballet, with the capable ensemble (including Edmond native Kolby Kindle) whisking through scenes with a deftness equal to set designer Scott Pask’s smart sliding stage, which is often playfully occupied by the talented six-piece band.
“Waitress” isn’t just a wonderful treat for the eyes and ears. The show’s famous pie oven had the Civic Center lobby deliciously scented with apples and cinnamon during Wednesday’s intermission, as the concession stands and strolling vendors hawked a selection of miniature jarred pies for $8 each. The heavenly salted caramel chocolate was the proverbial cherry on top of a soul- (and stomach) satisfying evening of theater.
When: 7:30 p.m. today, 8 p.m. Friday, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday and 2 and 7 p.m. Sunday.
Where: Civic Center Music Hall, 201 N Walker.
Information: www.okcbroadway.com or 594-8300.