Waitress the Musical (pro-shot)
Rating: ★★★★
Venue: N/A
Cast: Sara Bareilles, Charity Angél Dawson, Caitlin Houlahan, Drew Gehling, Dakin Matthews, Eric Anderson, Joe Tippett and Christopher Fitzgerald

Waitress: The Musical brings the Tony-nominated, Broadway phenomenon to the big screen. Featuring composer-lyricist Sara Bareilles as Jenna Hunterson, a waitress and expert pie maker stuck in a small town and a loveless marriage. Waitress celebrates the power of friendship, dreams, the family we choose and the beauty of a well-baked pie.

Pro-shots of musicals are becoming increasingly popular, with smash-hits like Hamilton, Come From Away and Heathers hitting streaming platforms like Disney, Apple and Amazon Prime, in recent years. Now's the time for one of my personal favourites, which I miss dearly in the West End, Waitress the Musical. Waitress is based on the 2007 film of the same name. The composer and lyricist, Sara Bareilles, also doubles as our lead; much the same as Lin Manuel-Miranda's Hamilton.

Waitress is known as a female-centric musical that follows the story of Jenna Hunterson. Jenna is (unsurprisingly) a waitress in a small town, who doubles as an expert pie maker, whose pies are always the talk of the diner she works in. She's in an unhappy marriage with her abusive husband, Earl, and is desperate to escape and find herself again. As she learns of her unexpected pregnancy, Jenna is even more desperate to flee, but she now feels more trapped than ever. Jenna now has to navigate her pregnancy with help of her best friends, Dawn and Becky, and dishy OB/GYN Dr Pomatter. But will that be enough to help her achieve the freedom she deserves?

While there's no big show-stopping scenes, the stripped back setting works far better for such an impactful and raw musical. While it tackles many heavy subjects, it still manages to be mostly light-hearted, and incredibly witty. The direction by Diane Paulus is simplistic but effective, and you're easily transported between scenes with seamless transitions. One aspect I didn't particularly enjoy was the eccentric choreography from Lorin Latarro, which at times proves quite distracting and jarring.

Sara Bareilles is best when paired with Dr Pomatter (Drew Gehling), their chemistry is undeniable and they play off of each other expertly. Gehling's quirky and awkward interpretation of Dr Pomatter is almost a show-stealer. However, Bareilles', "Everything Changes", is an understated few minutes of pure magic that I simply don't think is topped throughout the show, even up against the heartbreakingly brilliant, "She Used to be Mine".

Becky (Charity Angél Dawson) and Dawn (Caitlin Houlahan) are given their own moments to shine throughout the production with their own songs "I Didn't Plan It" and "When He Sees Me", as well as their own secondary storylines, which are just as compelling as Jenna's. As an audience, it's easy to connect and relate to our three female leads in Jenna, Becky and Dawn. In terms of acting, no one does it better than Joe Tippett, who plays Jenna's horrifying husband, Earl. To make a despicable character so believable is no small feat.

The soundtrack is simply stunning and wows with numbers such as "Opening Up" and "Bad Idea". The softer numbers such as "You Matter to Me" and "What Baking Can Do" are just as effective, and it's easy to feel overcome with emotion throughout the production.

Another aspect I found jarring was the amount of extreme close-ups mid scene. While this happened a lot at the beginning of the pro-shot, it seemed less erratic at the start of act two, which was a welcome change.

Funny, gut-wrenching, warm, impactful and relatable - all of this mixed up and baked in a beautiful proshot, is the best way to describe Waitress the Musical. While the West End production will always be especially precious to me, this pro-shot will fill the Waitress shaped hole in your heart.

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