REVIEW: Waitress the Musical UK Tour – a delectable slice of musical theatre perfection

WAITRESS Tour Lucie Jones as Jenna, Sandra Marvin as Becky, Evelyn Hoskins as Dawn

Venue: Milton Keynes Theatre

Performance Date: 04 October 2021

Reviewer: Gemma Fincher

Star Rating: ★★★★

Waitress the Musical is the quintessential tale of a small-town girl with big dreams. Gifted pie-maker Jenna is trapped in an abusive marriage working in a local diner. She yearns for bigger things and dreams of owning her own diner one day. Trapped in a perpetual cycle of discontent and resigned to her lot, things get tricky when she falls for the charming Dr. Pomatter. With the help of her close friends Becky and Dawn, Jenna must overcome her obstacles to realise her dream – not as easy as pie.

Based on the 2007 film of the same name, the musical was conceptualised by an all-female creative team, with a score by 7-time Grammy Award winner Sara Bareilles, book by Jessie Nelson, and direction from Tony Award-winner Diane Paulus. Waitress is a multi-themed piece that delves into some serious issues including domestic abuse and adultery, but does so in a light-hearted and mainly non-confronting way, peppering comedy throughout. Don’t be fooled – beneath the saccharine surface is substance to savour.

Lucie Jones, steps back into the role of Jenna having taken over from Katharine McPhee in the West End pre-COVID. It’s easy to see why Jones became a household name back in 2009 when she reached the finals of the X-Factor. She has a voice to die for. Not only that but she is beautifully cast to take on the role of the conflicted Jenna who she plays with a palpable vulnerability, yet enduring, underlying strength. Jones delivers Jenna’s arc masterfully, navigating her guilt, resignation, and resilience with poise and believability. Her rendition of the tear-jerking She Used to Be Mine, is one of the most perfectly delivered, emotionally raw, and ethereal performances you will ever see on stage.

Bookending Jones is the gregarious Sandra Marvin as Becky and the gorgeously goofy Evelyn Hoskins as Dawn. Both bring the comedy moments to proceedings, and they both deliver sold and assured turns in their respective roles. Marvin is a sassy powerhouse of a performer and her vocal placement is a dream. Hoskins’ performance is pure joy, and she is further complemented by George Crawford as Ogie, and it is a delight to watch their relationship unfold. Crawford was made for this role and serves to make Ogie one of the most endearing and loveable characters in the show. No mean feat when Ogie’s pursual of Dawn comes across as a touch predatory (the lyrics don’t help here) and his light stage time.

Matt Jay-Willis is charming as the somewhat morally and professionally questionable Dr Pomatter. He and Jones share a believable chemistry, and their duet Bad Idea is wonderfully executed as they literally dance (and sing) around their infidelity. If he hadn’t already, Jay-Willis, successfully manages to blast out of his pop star stereotype with this performance. He nails Pomatter’s awkward charm.

Tamlyn Henderson succeeds in being thoroughly unlikeable as Jenna’s abusive husband Earl, it’s testament to his skill as an actor that every time he is on stage, he creates an uncomfortable ambiance in the room. Christopher D Hunt is truly riotous as Diner manager Cal. However, it is Scarlet Gabriel who (almost) steals the show as Nurse Norma, who unapologetically and hilariously continuously interrupts Dr. Pomatter and Jenna in many a compromising position. The wider ensemble is also incredibly strong and delivers Lorin Latarro’s choreography with aplomb. Scott Pask’s set design is cleverly executed and ambitious for a touring production but works effectively, the attention to detail is quite exquisite.

Waitress is a gorgeous mixture of stunning numbers, multi-layered, yet flawed characters, and sparkling wit. Full of baking puns, Waitress is cheesy and a touch corny at times but does successfully deliver a slice of theatre that shouldn’t be taken too seriously, despite its dalliance into some dark territory. It’s easy to see why the show has a loyal fanbase. If you are looking for those few hours of theatrical escapism, then Waitress is the perfect recipe.

Runs Until: 09 October 2021 at Milton Keynes Theatre – UK Tour runs until 20 August 2022

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