by Lynn on August 1, 2019

in The Passionate Playgoer

At the Ed Mirvish Theatre, Toronto, Ont.

Book by Jessie Nelson

Music and lyrics by Sara Bareilles

Directed by Diane Paulus

Set by Scott Pask

Costumes by Suttirat Anne Larlab

Lighting by Ken Billington

Sound by Jonathan Deans

Choreography by Lorin Latarro

Cast: Ephie Aardema

Melody A. Betts

Ryan Dunkin

Christina Dwyer (Desi Oakley Aug. 2-12)

Steve Good

Larry Marshall

Jeremy Morse

Eadie Murphy

Jeremy Woodard

A really prickly but ultimately uplifting story of tenacity, endurance and the lasting, joyous effects of pie.

The Story. Jenna is a waitress who is a gifted pie maker. She learned it from her mother and is carrying on that tradition. She is also carrying on the tradition of being abused—her father abused her mother, and now Jenna’s husband Earl abuses her.  And she finds that she is pregnant—the trials of sleeping with her husband albeit infrequently. She finds solace in her colleagues at work, Dawn and Becky. They urge her to leave Earl. Still there are her pies. She is creative in what she puts in them and how she names them—usually it depends on her mood. One pie was erroneously described as “Deep Shit Blueberry Pie” instead of “Deep Dish……”

The Production. Waitress (the musical) is based on the motion picture written by Adrienne Shelly. I never saw it. Director Diane Paulus has imagined a fast-paced, raucous, neon-coloured world of Joe’s Pie Diner. Scott Pask’s simple set of the diner sign, the place where the orders are picked up,  the various tables and chairs and the pie shelves slide on and off efficiently allowing the sets to change in a flash.

Jenna, played by Christine Dwyer, is a funny woman with a belting voice. Dwyer imbues Jenna with a mix of sweetness and sadness, but also pluck. She takes most things in her stride but certainly is afraid of her needy, bullying husband Earl, played so well by Jeremy Woodward and with so much anger and bad humour he had to apologize at the bow, or in his case should that be boo? Wonderful.

Jenna finds solace in her two friends from work: Becky, a sassy, steely-voiced Melody A. Betts, and Dawn, played with nerdy hilarity by Ephie Aardema. Jenna has a thing with her gynaecologist, Dr. Pomatter, a dashing Steve Good; Dawn finds her own true love in the obsessive and compulsive Ogie played by Jeremy Morse, who takes full advantage of this bound to please role.  The manager of the diner, trying to control these wild women is Cal played with exasperation and irony by Ryan G. Dunkin. Joe, the owner of the pie shop is also a fussy customer and Larry Marshall plays him with a lovely laid-back cynicism.

Sara Bareilles has written a quirky musical with melodies that creep up on you. And her lyrics are as quirky as well. “I Love You Like A Table” is one love song you won’t soon forget.

Comment. This is a musical with an edge. Stuff happens in it that makes ones eye-brows crinkle. There’s the business of the spousal abuse. There are inappropriate relationships. The relationship between Dawn and Ogie, while cute and sweet, gives one pause when Ogie wildly sings that she is “Never, Ever Getting Rid of Him.” Woooow.

Let’s talk about the sound, shall we. Audience members blame the theatre company (Mirvish Productions)  for the blaring sound, as if the booking company decides how loud everything is. In fact it’s the production company of the show that is touring that makes that decision. I guess they think the audiences are deaf and so the sound must be blaring. Well the audiences are deaf because the sound is too loud. Really, it’s so loud one can’t make out the lyrics. Now that can’t be right. So if the production companies insist on destroying our hearing with their over amplified sound, can they at least provide us with surtitles so we can make out the lyrics. I think it’s rather important to know what they are.

Presented by Mirvish Productions.

Began. Jan. 9, 2019.

Closes: Aug. 18, 2019.

Running Time: 2 hours, 45 minutes.

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1 Harold Povilaitis August 4, 2019 at 10:23 pm

Lynn, thank you for yet another insightful review … and THANK YOU ESPECIALLY for calling out the production company of this touring show (and others), for setting sound levels SO LOUD that one can’t make out the lyrics. Presumably, lyricists DO spend a lot of time on producing lyrics TO BE HEARD AND UNDERSTOOD by audiences … so perhaps your suggestion of providing SURTITLES might be one alternate approach, to help deal with this widespread problem experienced with touring shows !!!