Sugar, Butter, Flour: The Ingredients for a Great Musical

Waitress has been a collective favorite movie in my family for a while. When we heard it was coming to Broadway we knew we had to get tickets. We were lucky enough to see it while in previews and were not disappointed.


The story of Waitress can be described as simplistic but in a beautiful way. Jenna, the titular waitress, is miserable with her small-town life and abusive husband. Her journey of learning to love again and breaking free is tethered to the many outrageous and seemingly delicious pies she bakes. The storyline is consistent with the movie and the libretto’s loyalty to the original story was much appreciated. Jessie Nelson translated the story perfectly for the stage, if not better than the original.
The music in the show was gorgeous and I can’t stop listening to it. Sara Bareilles has done genius things with the story of the show in musical form. From the melodies to the rhythm of each note, every sound has a purpose and it’s so pleasing to listen to, it’s as addictive as pie.

Sara Bareillas (Music), Jessie Mueller and Diana Paulus (Director)

What can’t be left out of this review is the cast. The three main characters are played by three incredibly talented performers. Keala Settle plays Becky, an outspoken woman who is not afraid of being judged by other people. Settle plays this role with pride and strength that emanates female empowerment. In “I Didn’t Plan It,” she sings about finding herself in a situation that most people would not condone, but ends up bringing her happiness. The song itself brings up the important point that no one is perfect, and sometimes our own ideals of perfection are not always what count. Settle does an excellent performance, bringing Becky and her struggles to life, representing her own version of a woman trapped in a life she didn’t ask for.
Kimiko Glenn, whom you may recognize as SoSo from Orange is The New Black, plays Dawn. She is a troubled young woman who is afraid to put herself out there to date. Dawn is an extremely relatable character, the kind of person who prefers to control every situation to the point that it stops them from taking risks. From her body language to her voice, Glenn portrays Dawn as someone who lacks a lot of confidence but has a huge personality. Dawn is without a doubt a character that many women can relate to. She sings “When He Sees Me,” a song about the fear of rejection which hits home with real fears as well as acknowledging the irrational fears we can have when dating (What if he eats Oreos but eats the cookie before the cream!?).

 

Last but not least is Jenna, played by the remarkable Jessie Mueller. Jessie Mueller won the 2015 Tony Award for Best Leading Actress in a Musical. I think no matter what anyone sees in their lifetime, they should make a point to see this woman sing live. Mueller is an incredible actress who brings Jenna to the stage with new life. Her voice has so much emotion, you can hear the pain and joy her character is experiencing. Mueller silences the theater with her distinguishing song “She Used to Be Mine.” This song will easily become a Broadway Classic, but quite possibly no one can ever perform it as well as Jessie Mueller. From her movement to the dynamics in each note, she bravely sings about losing who she is in life, a thing so many people can relate to. She makes you see this girl that she used to be while showing, in some ways, she is still that girl.


Looking ahead to the Tony Awards, I hope Waitress wins all four of its nominated categories:  Best Musical, Best Original Score (Music and/or Lyrics) Written for the Theatre, Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical, and Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical. Although I know it is likely that the fan favorite will win Best Musical, I believe in my heart that Waitress is just as deserving. I think it’s hard for me to talk about the other aspects of this show because they were so perfect. In no way did any part of the show outshine any other. The lighting always set the mood, whether it be a dimly lit room or the fluorescent lights of a diner. The sets were simple but beautiful. The direction was flawless as the show seamlessly transitioned from scene to scene. The costumes were everything you would want for these characters. The dedication the entire theater has put into the show is clear:  there’s an oven in the lobby so they can bake every night to make the theater smell like pie!


This show had me crying from laughing so hard, followed by times of heartbreak. I felt like I went on an emotional journey with these characters and for me, that’s all I can ask for. I haven’t felt this way about a show since I first saw Next to Normal. I think this show and the message it has about how every flawed life is perfect for someone, is just as important. This show has the power to impact every person who sees it with just a little sugar, butter, and flour.
I assure everyone who goes to see Waitress the Musical, you will enjoy it. Get your tickets before the Tonys if you can, because I promise this is a hit. For a taste of Waitress, check out their performance on The Today Show, here.

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