Waitress the Musical Review
by Julie Perez
I knew I would fall in love with Waitress the Musical the moment that I found out that Sara Bareilles was creating the music for it. I knew I would love it and yet I was completely unprepared for the journey the musical took me on.
Last week, I was lucky enough to travel to New York and was able to attend Waitress the Musical. Being that I’ve been listening to the music for about a year; my expectations were ridiculously high. The show is an adaption of the indie film “Waitress” and the stage version has captured the same sweet magic that the original film contained. The running themes are strong with empowerment; the female friendships, the mother-daughter relationship, the strength you find from something you are good at, the lessons in mistakes and the realizations that come from finding yourself. On the surface, “Waitress” is a fun musical about baking but a couple of songs in and you slowly realize that the ride you’re about to go in is about to be heartbreakingly-empowering.
The moment the spotlight hit Jessie Mueller, who plays Jenna, the emotions got caught in my throat and I could barely contain the excitement. I vividly remember Mueller’s performance at the Tony’s and now being in the same room as her while she belted out these powerful songs was almost too much to handle. Jessie Mueller shines in the vulnerability she showcases on stage; every moment is grounded in reality and she pulls you in with each scene. Her vocals are out of this world and I found myself constantly in awe of what I was witnessing. “She Used to Be Mine” is a powerful song when I listen to it through my headphones at work but experiencing it live, it took my breath away. Sara Bareilles’ music and Jessie Mueller’s vocals are a match made in Heaven.
With Jessie Mueller leading, everything else seems to fall perfectly into place. The chemistry between Jessie Mueller and Drew Gehling (Dr. Pomatter) was palpable, whether it be with their comedic timing or their performances together; “Bad Idea”, “You Matter To Me”. Gehling brought a sweetness to the character of Dr. Pomatter that was missing from the film. Gehling shines in his charismatic-awkwardness and his performance made Mueller’s final decision (at the end of the show) even more difficult to witness. Caitlin Houlahan as Dawn was the perfect portrayal of a socially-awkward (some may say nerdy) and extremely-likeable character. Her performance of “When He Sees Me” was by far a stand-out moment and Houlahan completely owned the moment.
If we want to talk about scene-stealers though, we really should give a moment to Christopher Fitzgerald (Ogie). All eyes fell on Fitzgerald every single time he came on stage and his commitment to the role earned him the standing ovation that happened at the end of the show. Fitzgerald had me from the moment he sang “Never Ever Getting Rid of Me” and my love for him only grew with “I Love You Like a Table”. Ogie and Dawn’s relationship was a wonderful distraction amidst the numerous tumultuous relationship. Both Fitzgerald and Houlahan brought a genuine chemistry that had me wholeheartedly believing in their relationship.
The goosebumps in my arms first appeared when Charity Angél Dawson (Becky) gave a jaw-dropping performance of “I Didn’t Plan It”. I’ve listened to the song countless of times but never have I ever felt the sob catch in my throat and the dire need to give Becky a hug. Dawson’s commitment to the moment had my heart pounding and the tears on the verge of spilling over. Her vocals pierced right through me and had me connecting to the song in a completely new way. When the song was over my friend and I turned to each other in awe of what we had just witnessed. No amount of praise will ever be enough to express how deeply moved I was by Dawson’s genuinely beautiful portrayal of Becky. She was a much needed comedic-relief in pivotal moments and brought heart to a scene when it was needed the most. I demand a recorded version of Charity’s version of “I Didn’t Plan It” because more people deserve to listen to it.
In its entirety; Waitress is a powerful and emotional Musical. Though at times the background and the many moving pieces was a bit distracting, it didn’t take away from the fact that at its core this Musical has HEART. It connects with you in unexpected moments and personally, I spent the entire second act crying (I was not alone).To follow Jenna on her journey into liberation was a privilege and one that I encourage everyone to witness. Waitress is an experience from the moment you step into the theatre; the hallways smell like pie, they sell mini pies and they sell custom drinks (I had the “I Don’t Wanna Baby”). The authenticity of the show stays with you well after leaving the theatre and you’d be a fool to miss out on the opportunity to see this creation live.
Jessie Mueller’s run is ending in 4 weeks but the multi-talented Sara Bareilles will be taking over the role of Jenna. I’m not sure if I’m happy for myself because I got to witness Jessie Mueller or jealous of everyone who gets to see Sara Bareilles’ Broadway debut.