Adelphi Theatre, London
Sara Bareilles’ cherry sweet musical follows Jenna as she bakes her feelings into pies. In an abusive relationship and expecting a child she is not excited about, we follow Jenna as she journeys through life and has some unexpected experiences.
Three new cast members have joined the diner to form the second West End cast. They are Lucie Jones as Jenna, Ashley Roberts as Dawn and Blake Harrison as Ogie. Despite lacking vocal strength, control and diction at times, Roberts grows into the role of Dawn throughout the performance and as her limited run continues, she will surely relax more and bring the quirky character to life in a genuine, witty and entertaining way.
Currently it feels somewhat as if she’s overacting and is often flat or reaching for the notes in both her solo and group numbers, but hopefully this will be rectified and this will prove a good star cast choice. Her partner, played by fellow newcomer Harrison is supremely funny 100% of the time. Again his vocals are ever so slightly lacking, but as the nerves fade, so will the faults. Harrison is a hugely entertaining performer and a pleasant surprise in this sweet show.
As leading lady Jenna, Lucie Jones is second to none. Her impeccable interpretation of the character is charming, sincere, humorous and heartbreaking at once. Each small facial expression and movement is filled with a thousand words; and alongside Jones’ phenomenal, clear-as-glass voice, the performance is mesmerising. The vulnerability of Jenna is brought to life in a nuanced but completely effective way by Jones, with her rendition of ‘She Used To Be Mine’ not only breaking hearts, but bringing the audience to their feet mid show.
Michael Hamway (swing) embodies the erratic but charming Dr Pomatter admirably, as well as bringing some stellar vocals to the stage. ‘You Matter To Me’ was performed with heartbreaking sincerity by Jones and Hamway. Marisha Wallace continues to bring sass, sass and more sass to the stage, as well as powerhouse vocals, lively one-liners and delicate moments with Jenna. ‘Take it From an Old Man’ is a welcome moment of calm and simplicity performed by diner regular, Old Joe, played by Shaun Prendergast.
The villain of the show, and highly flawed character Earl is played with menace by Peter Hannah. Whilst the moments of physical anger are jarring, it’s the brief moments of emotional blackmail which really strike the audience. Hannah manages to capture both tormenting sides of Earl, in a spectacularly well-constructed and controlled way. The character is vile but Peter must be applauded for performing him so well and truthfully.
Nurse Norma is a highly amusing character who pops up throughout the show to deliver brilliant one-liners. Brought to life by Kelly Agbowu she is an especially memorable character and manages to gain numerous laughs in the stage time she has. Charlotte Riby also puts a smaller character in the forefront of our minds with her honest performance as Jenna’s mum who faced many similar struggles as well as teaching her daughter all she knows about baking. Jones and Riby have a chemistry which is visible even from their brief moments together and it’s lovely to see.
Scott Pask’s set and Lorin Latarro’s choreography are particularly effective with the sets and ensemble often moving as one to create a fluidity throughout. Equally as impressive is the way the stage transforms to mirror the moods of leading lady Jenna. The home shared by Jenna and her abusive husband is surrounded by darkness and is much smaller than each of the other settings so physically emphasises how trapped Jenna feels, and is. When she begins to rediscover her spark, the space expands in a moment of relief and theatrical wonder.
Whilst a lot of the morals and motivations in this musical are morally ambiguous and there is a lack of resolution, there’s no denying that it’s a sweet treat filled with musical delights and sugary performances. Sara Bareilles’ score is a delightful listen and the mostly strong cast do a wonderful job of bringing it to life and showing that there is always light and support at the end of the tunnel.
Waitress is currently booking at the Adelphi Theatre until December 7th 2018, tickets can be booked at www.londonboxoffice.co.uk
photo credit: Johan Persson and Olivia Mitchell