Theater – Waitress

I love a musical.  I’ve said it a few times before, I’ll say it again.  I also know that by having the opportunity to visit New York and see a Broadway show in its original run, I am very very lucky.  It’s not something I’m ever going to take for granted.  So when we were planning our New York trip, and it looked like there would be a big chunk of time on Friday afternoon, I brought up the idea of getting tickets to a show to the Boy.  He readily agreed – I was going to “his” show, he would see whatever I wanted.

Photo by Joan Marcus, 2016

So I started stalking the TKTS website to see what would be playing that day.  I don’t think Friday afternoons are usual for matinees on Broadway, but because of the holidays, more shows had been added during the daytime for the many visitors to the city, us included.  If you’ve never used TKTS before, it’s a ticket booth in Times Square that sells discounted theater tickets for many shows on and off Broadway, plays and musicals.  Most are no longer in their first run, but sometimes you can score seats to something that’s been around for a little while.  I had my sights set on Waitress – a show that opened in April of 2016, and had scored good reviews, along with Tony nominations (though it lost in every category…three to Hamilton [surprise!], and one to The Color Purple).  Anyways – I set my eyes on this as the show that I most wanted to see, and so on Friday morning after losing out on the Hamilton ticket lottery, we made our way up to Times Square, fighting off the crowds who were gathered to see the New Years preparations, and got in line.

Photo by Joan Marcus, 2016

And I got so lucky.  I was worried that they might have run out of seats.  Or that we’d be in obscured seats.  Or something.  Instead, I said, “Two for Waitress”, and the lady said, “I’ve got two in the fifth row orchestra for [more than 50% off face value]”.  I should have hesitated.  They weren’t cheap.  But this was my first choice show which I had been secretly hoping to get, starring a woman who had won a Tony, and this was my chance.  I just handed over my credit card as the Boy said, “Are you sure?”  It wasn’t break the bank expensive, but it was a splurge for sure.  But it turns out – so worth it.

Photo by Joan Marcus, 2016

When we got to the theater there was a line to get in.  There’s the one entry door, and they must have opened it late.  And we both needed to use the lavatory.  The lines were so crazy for the women’s room that those of us who were in the snaked around part of the line just took over the mens room to use their stalls.  While there were dudes using the urinals.  We live in a modern world.  But I managed to relieve myself a full 5 minutes before the show started, and get to our VERY GOOD seats.  And then to look wildly around me because I could smell pie.  That’s right – they sell little mini mason jars filled with pie.  It was an intoxicating smell.  I have a feeling if we’d arrived earlier, or hadn’t been in the very middle of the row that we would have bought one to share during intermission.

But the show!  That’s what you’re interested in with this review.  Maybe.  Probably?  The show is very good.  It’s based on an indie movie from 2007 that I happened to see because this was back when I was seeing a LOT of movies.

Maybe you saw it too.  You probably didn’t, because it wasn’t a huge hit, but if you did, you remember it being quirky and odd, but fun.  The story is that Jenna lives in a small town and works as a waitress at a diner where she makes the pies – something her mother taught her to do.  When she discovers she’s pregnant, she is not happy – her husband is a horrible and abusive man who takes the money she makes, and keeps her sort of down-trodden.  Jenna finds out about a pie contest with a $25,000 prize, and decides to go after that.  At the same time, her new obstetrician is a handsome and charming man and the two sort of fall into an affair.  I won’t spoil what happens, from there, but it’s good fun.

Photo by Joan Marcus, 2016

Jessie Mueller stars as Jenna, and she is delightful.  Very relate-able in her indecision and fear, and with an amazingly expressive face.  Her voice is beautiful – both strong and tender, and gentle – bouncing along on the upbeat songs, and sort of sinking in and wrapping you in emotion in the hearfelt emotional ones.  She’s so good – she won a Tony for Beautiful: The Carole King Musical – and I’m so glad that I had a chance to see her perform this role before she leaves it in March.  Though interestingly enough Sara Bareilles, who wrote the music and lyrics for the show, is rumored to be in talks to take on the lead role sometime this spring.  Fascinating!

Photo by Joan Marcus, 2016

The rest of the cast is rather wonderful as well, but I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Christopher Fitzgerald as Ogie.  His song “Never Ever Getting Rid of Me” which appears close to the end of the first act is a show-stopper, and I can see why he too was nominated for (and even occasionally won) several awards.

It’s such a fun show.  I worried throughout that it wasn’t going to be the kind of thing that the Boy would like, but he surprises me on a regular basis, and when I turned to him at intermission, the smile on his face was nearly as big as my own.  And after the show as we stood in the snow that was falling gently in the city, he thanked me for insisting on this show.  It’s nice think that I made a good pick that we both enjoyed.  And perhaps you’ll get to see it sooner rather than later too – the show will begin a national tour this October, starting in Cleveland.

Details: Waitress: The Musical, now playing at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre, 256 West 47th Street.  Tickets available online or through TKTS for same day performances (not guaranteed).

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