Tuesday 14th September 2021 at Leeds Grand Theatre and Opera House.
A good ol’ fashioned American diner sets the scene for baking and romance in this bubbly story of sisterhood, connection and standing on your own two feet.
Briefly, waitress Jenna is stuck in a rut with her controlling slimeball husband Earl and hoping for a life better than the one she saw her mother lead. With the comic help and advice of her fellow waitresses and her new doctor, she learns to see beyond the right now to what could be – and what she deserves. Cue a mixture of feel-good fun, a cracking score and some roller coaster emotions.
It has to be said that Lucie Jones is superb in the lead role here. Really. And I was glad to see her receive a deserved standing ovation to prove it. Not only does Jones bring a gorgeous and dynamic vocal to the role, but her take on Jenna is thoroughly endearing throughout. She’s super sweet but never cloying; funny but never biting with it, and, whether she’s dancing with pies, temptation or big life decisions, she has her audience in the palm of her hand.
Jones is gifted with a great supporting cast too – namely the hilarious and big-voiced fellow waitresses: Sandra Marvin as Becky and Evelyn Hoskins as Dawn. Both Marvin and Hoskins are brilliant with their comic timing and their moments to shine as lead vocalist, but their visual gags in particular provide some of the best laughs to be had.
And while those fellow waitresses are, like Jenna, also searching for connection, they find great comic counterparts in Ogie (George Crawford) and Cal (Christopher D. Hunt). Crawford in particular is a real hoot, and the scenes between Ogie and Dawn should get even the stoniest of faces cracking up. Other comedy gold arrives in the form of Scarlet Gabriel as the seasoned Nurse Norma, who never fails to land a sardonic one liner.
The story has plenty of fun in it, and it is definitely sweetly sentimental, but it is also subtly gritty in it’s careful spotlighting of an abusive relationship and the tricky road of finding comfort in infidelity. Taking us down that road are Matt Jay Willis and Tamlyn Henderson, who offer Jenna starkly contrasting men in Dr Pomatter and Earl, each flirting with comedy in their own way, but with the good doctor winning us over while Earl…well, just wait and see.
Based on the movie by Adrienne Shelly and with a female-led creative team including book by Jessie Nelson and music and lyrics from Sara Bareilles, there’s plenty to like here. Nelson’s book features some great comedy which is brought to life with gusto under the direction of Diane Paulus.
Bareilles’ score has variety, beauty and poetry to it, and in the hands of this cast, the toe-tapping, heart-tugging ebbs and flows of it are well delivered. Factor in understated, fluid choreography from Lorin Latarro, Scott Pask’s movable feast set and a live band, and you have a show which feels full of life and energy. That’s not to say that this show is without minor flaws though; for some, the brush strokes will feel very broad at times and there are some moments akin to caricature, BUT, there’s no denying that this big-hearted musical hit is certainly worthy of packed audiences.
All in all? There are plenty of reasons to see this show: the comedy, the voices, the great score, and the great cast. But if you go for just one reason, make it seeing Lucie Jones nail this coveted role. Outstanding.
Waitress plays Leeds Grand Theatre until Saturday 18th September 2021 and you can find tickets here.