Singer-songwriter Sara Bareilles is known for her uplifting music, as hits like “Love Song” and “Brave” have inspired many throughout her career. One of her more recent projects, the rousing Broadway musical “Waitress,” arrived at the Lied Center for Performing Arts this weekend for a five-performance run.
The production debuted on Broadway in April 2016 and was nominated for four Tony Awards, including Best Musical and Best Original Score. The music and lyrics are by Bareilles and the book was written by Jessie Nelson.
Based on the 2007 film of the same name, “Waitress” follows Jenna (Bailey McCall), a waitress and pie baker who feels trapped in an abusive marriage. After she unexpectedly becomes pregnant, she begins an affair with her doctor and searches for a way out of her small town and into a better life.
“Waitress” is known to be an uplifting yet tear-jerking show with its impactful story and stirring music. It’s a show about hope, as Jenna learns how to find happiness after feeling trapped with her marriage, her job and her now impending baby.
Like the pies Jenna bakes, there are many ingredients that go into this sweet confection of a production. The crust of the show is Bareilles’ catchy, soulful music. With memorable, largely acoustic numbers such as “It Only Takes a Taste” and “Bad Idea,” Bareilles demonstrates the songwriting chops that produced her numerous hits.
Her music is deliciously complemented by a strong cast of characters. Jenna is flanked by her fellow waitresses, Dawn (Gabriella Marzetta) and Becky (Kennedy Salters), who support Jenna along her journey. Both supporting women also get their own amusing subplots, as Becky starts sleeping with their manager Cal (Jake Mills) and Dawn falls in love with the hilarious, scene-stealing, cartoonishly Southern Ogie (Brian Lundy).
The main romance of the story revolves around Jenna and Dr. Pomatter (David Socolar), who both feel trapped in their respective marriages and use their affair as an escape from their humdrum lives. There’s a lot of infidelity in “Waitress” — almost comically so — but the affairs are never glorified and instead show the harm they can cause. Socolar and McCall have excellent chemistry as they convey the complicated emotions of these flawed characters.
The cherry on top is the show’s tremendous characterization of its protagonist. Jenna’s arc is full of raw, real emotion in its portrayal of a woman wrestling with her life and relationships. Her experiences in an abusive marriage are brilliantly written, showing how hard it is for victims to escape toxic relationships.
By the end of the show, Jenna is uplifted through her friendship with Dawn and Becky and sets out to make her own impact on the world with a newfound sense of confidence.
With its ingredients so masterfully combined, the show results in an extremely sweet but emotionally satisfying production. But unlike pie, “Waitress” won’t give anybody a stomach ache by consuming too much of it.
“Waitress” will give four more performances across Saturday and Sunday. Tickets can be purchased online or at the Lied Center box office.