Waitress by Jessie Nelson & Sara Bareilles. The Adelphi, the Strand, London. 3*** William Russell

Book by Jessie Nelson Music & Lyrics by Sarah Bareilles
Based on the film by Adrienne Shelly.
The Adelphi, 409-412 Strand, London WC2R 0NS booking to 19 October 2019.
Mon – Sat 7.30pm Mat Wed & Sat 2.30pm.
Runs 2hr 40 mins One interval.
TICKETS: 020 7087 7968.

Review: William Russell 7 March

American pie in the sky
This ghastly musical will probably do very well indeed as it is bright, brash and full of jokes about matters female and gynaecological which the matrons in the coach party outings will adore. It also professes to being a feminist affair as the heroine eventually tells her abusive husband to get scram when he comes to call in the maternity ward and then shows her gynaecologist lover the door as well – thus proving women can stand by themselves. In addition all concerned with staging and writing it are women, a Broadway first where this show, based on a 2007 movie, opened two years ago.
It is basically a hymn to the great American diner packed with every cliché from films of the past one can think of from the wisecracking best friend to the female nerd with specs who gets a makeover and turns out to be a right little river, to the male nerd who runs around pretending to be Donald O’Connor in his talking mule days, and the benevolent old chap who makes things right. We have been there before many times.
It has a score that thumps along in the expected manner, songs for the leading ladies to belt out to the rafters – all three get a chance to stop the show, although none of them actually did it on the first night – lyrics which, if one could make most of them out, diction not being a strong point all round, and a cheerful set which conjures up middle America, the land of motherhood and apple pie, perfectly. Waitress is described as Broadway’s hit musical and depending how you read that it is correct either way.
Jenna (Katharine McPhee smiling bravely in a ghastly wig) works in a diner alongside Becky (Marsha Wallace, loud of voice and vibrant with personality), a wise cracking dame, and Dawn (Laura Baldwin simpering sweetly), the girl with specs and the church mouse who will turn out to be quite a little raver once she gets a makeover. Jenna cooks pies much talked about as being delicious, but all of which sound quite nauseatingly rich, the sort of food the looks good until you try it. She is married to Earl (Peter Hannah), a slob who ill treats her. One day she discovers she is pregnant and off she goes to her gynaecologist, only to find her doctor has retired and she gets Dr Pomatter (David Hunter oozing bedside charm) instead. He is a nice, goofy guy (think Carlton Carpenter) who examines his patients without anyone else being present and in no time at all he and Jenna are cavorting on the surgery couch – as you do. To be fair, McPhee has a decent voice and smiles nicely throughout.
One does wonder why Pomatter has not been struck off, if this is how – and he is a married man – they do things in America.
Jenna longs to enter a pie making contest which will rescue her from Earl, and saves up her tips secretly so she can raise the cash. She is also regarded benevolently by old Joe (Shaun Prendergast channelling all those senior citizens of Hollywood movies), the deus ex machine who owns the diner and eventually dies at just the right moment. He saves the day after Jenna finally stands up for herself , rising from her hospital bed moments after giving birth, to tell both men in her life to get lost.

Add the usual gangling nerd (Jack McBraver doing a nice toothy turn) for the church mouse Dawn to get; Cal (Stephen Leask), the tough but chicken hearted diner manager for Becky to pass the time of day with; and right at the end a golden haired moppet – one can only hope she does not take after her daddy – and you have the recipe for a show which will no doubt run and run. Some will run to it, others from. Like those ghastly pies Jenna keeps preparing on stage – in scenes reminiscent of pantomime kitchen scenes – it all looks good until you taste it.

Jenna: Katharine McPhee.
Cal: Stephen Leask.
Dawn: Laura Baldwin.
Becky: Marsha Wallace.
Joe: Shaun Prendergast.
Earl: Peter Hannah.
Nurse Norma: Kelly Agbowu.
Dr Pomatter: David Hunter.
Ogie: Jack McBrayer.
Lulu: Fifi Christophers/Arabella Duffy.
Ensemble: Kelly Agbowu, Piers Bate, Nicole Raquel Dennis, Chistopher McGuigan, Olivia Moore, Nathaniel Morrison, Charlotte Riby.
Dance Captain: Leanne Pinder.
Fight Captain: Christopher McGuigan.

Director: Diane Paulus.
Musical Director: Katharine Wooley.
Choreographer: Lorin Latarro.
Set Design: Scott Pask.
Costume Design: Suttirat Anne Larlarb.
Lighting Design: Ken Billington.
Sound Design: Jonathan Deans.
Wig & Makeup Design: Richard Mawbey.
Production Photography: Johan Persson.

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