By ERIKA SASSEVILLE and JACOB FROELICH
Waitress is baked with love by an all-female creative team. Based upon the motion picture written by Adrienne Shelly with music and lyrics by 6-time Grammy nominee Sara Bareilles (“Love Song”, “Brave”), book by Jessie Nelson, and direction by Tony Award winner Diane Paulus (Finding Neverland, Pippin, Hair). The women really do make the show. The heart of the story lies with the trio of waitresses, Jenna (Desi Oakley), Becky (Charity Angél Dawson) and Dawn (Lenne Klingaman). They are three women with imperfect love lives, but undying love and loyalty to one another. Waitress focuses on Jenna who finds herself pregnant while stuck in a loveless marriage to an increasingly emotionally and physically abusive husband Earl (Nick Bailey). Jenna’s mentor and boss, Joe, (Larry Marshall) convinces her to enter one of her many imaginative pies into a local contest to win prize money that will allow her to start a new life for her and her child.
You may think that you already know how this story will play out, but Waitress packs a few pleasant surprises for us all. Embracing the reality of human nature, the women share with the audience their adventures and misadventures finding Mr. Right and on occasion, Mr. Right now. The plot becomes even more complex when a charming and chivalrous Dr. Pomatter (Bryan Fenkart) gives Jenna the glimpse of a life outside her current encumbrances. This is where the cast as a whole takes the show from good to great. They show life as it really is, messy, complicated, and unpredictable. The characters and their dialogue create an honesty and realism generally reserved for candid conversations between friends rather than a broadway musical. It is special and unique in a pleasantly surprising way.
The men certainly hold their comedic own. Fenkart as Dr. Pomatter has excellent comedic timing, great physicality and brings joyful goofball awkwardness to the stage and Jenna’s life. Dawn’s love interest, Ogie (Jeremy Morse), delights in the show-stopping “Never Ever Getting Rid of Me.” Other stand-out cast members include Maiesha McQueen as Nurse Norma, and Prewitt Anderson as LuLu. The role of Lulu is played by two local actresses who auditioned for just the Minneapolis engagement. The other actress who performs on Friday and Sunday (both matinee and evening) is Estela Antivilo from Maple Grove. Prewitt will perform Wednesday and Saturday (Mat. and Eve.) as well.
Waitress is truly an all American production and we’d recommend you see it if you can. The characters will delight and entertain, the talent on stage including magicians and vocals is delightful and the whole thing comes together with a few twists and turns along the way. While we don’t all carry the same story through our lives, the human element of this show and the dilemmas faced by the characters are truly unified in the ensemble, and might just be saying the words you’ve been trying to find.
Set Design by Scott Pask, Costume Design by Suttirat Anne Larlarb, Lighting Design by Ken Billington, Sound Design by Jonathan Deans. Waitress is playing now through November 26 at the Orpheum Theatre in downtown Minneapolis. For tickets, call (800) 982-2787, click HennepinTheatreTrust.org, or visit the State Theatre Box Office (805 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis) open Monday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday, noon to 3 p.m.