The West End production of Broadway hit musical Waitress has opened to rave reviews at London’s Adelphi Theatre.
Smash star Katherine McPhee leads the cast alongside David Hunter (Kinky Boots), Marisha Wallace (Dreamgirls), Laura Baldwin, Peter Hannah, Shaun Prendergast and Emmy-nominee Jack McBrayer (30 Rock).
Based on the late Adrienne Shelly’s 2007 film, it’s your everyday pregnant-waitress-falls-in-love-with-her-dorky-gynaecologist story: Jenna works in a diner, finds out she has a bun in the oven, and finds escape from her abusive husband Earl in both piemaking and lovemaking.
The production has a book by Jessie Nelson, music and lyrics by 7-time Grammy® nominee Sara Bareilles an is directed by Diane Paulus.
Waitress is currently booking until 19 October 2019 at the Adelphi Theatre, London.
Read our round-up of reviews:
Evening Standard ★★★★
“it’s an admittedly lightweight story of a woman trapped by her circumstances, with a side order of occasionally eyebrow-raising sex comedy. But the ratio of sweet flavours to tart ones is well-judged. ”
“Diane Paulus’s production is fluent without being unpalatably slick — there’s a discreet onstage band and artfully restrained choreography from Lorin Latarro. The show has cartoonish elements, but mostly subverts its moments of sentimentality and silliness, and there’s a whole lot of humour baked into it”
Henry Hitchings, Evening Standard
The Times [Paywall] ★★★★★
“This musical took me by surprise: I expected something much less touching, gritty and moving. It has heart (not to mention pastry) to spare and Katharine McPhee’s voice has the lilt and lift that takes you away from yourself. She is woman, hear her soar. At times, especially in the second half, in the lament “She Used to Be Mine”, she seems to lift the roof off.”
“This is one for the XX chromosome brigade, a grown-up Legally Blonde. The male characters are a bit shallow and cartoony and the women, particularly Jenna and her two waitress friends Becky and Dawn, have almost all the good lines. The exception is the hilarious man disaster who is Ogie, played with limbo-loosening panache by Jack McBrayer of 30 Rock fame.”
“What a crew they are. There is not a weak link in the cast.”
Ann Treneman, The Times
The Independent ★★★★
“This is both a romcom set in the workplace and a feminist drama in which the protagonist makes painful progress to the belatedly assertive moment when she boots out her smugly abusive husband (he takes it for granted that her tips belong to him and seizes automatic control of them as if he were her pimp). ”
“Admittedly, there are moments of discomfort but it says a lot for the fast sass and wonderful take-it-or-leave it silliness and the occasional sugar-free sequences in Jessie Nelson’s deft book that the spot-on cast in Diane Paulus’s production mostly manage to give these elisions an elating good humour and humanity. ”
“The songs grew on me; they are in a pop idiom over an intricately figured rhythmic floor (one of these reminded me strongly of the Batman theme). It’s as if their staying power feels as if it’s being epitomised to the point of satire in the number “Never Ever Getting Rid of Me”. This latter is sung by the hilarious Jack McBrayer as Ogie.”
Paul Taylor, The Independent
“Most of the pies in Diane Paulus’s Broadway-conquering show are allegorical: their lurid lists of ingredients are flights of fancy in the mind of Katherine McPhee’s titular heroine Jenna, a pie-making prodigy who dreams of escaping her abusive marriage.”
“Adapted from Adrienne Shelly’s cult 2007 indie flick of the same name, Waitress is a moving musical full of flawed, morally compromised characters of the sort you so rarely get in this type of glossy Broadway show. Everyone, on some level, lets us or themselves down: indeed, the big showstopper, “She Used to Be Mine” – delivered with exquisitely controlled sorrow by McPhee – is Jenna’s bitter ode to her disappointment in herself.”
“But then there’s also the *other* Waitress. The silly Waitress that desperately wants you to have a laugh, and not let the serious ‘Waitress’ harsh your buzz. That Waitress features a pie-based cunnilingus scene, a Civil-War-reenactment-based cunnilingus scene and the alarming light relief characters of Dawn – a nerdy waitress – and Ogie, the hyperactive loon who courts Dawn throughout the show.”
Andrzej Lukowski, Time Out
The Stage ★★★★
“It’s really wonderful, with the sweetness, crispness and comfort of the best homemade pie, and boasts one of the best scores to be written in recent years.”
“the music by the many-times Grammy nominated singer-songwriter Sara Bareilles: perfectly constructed pop songs with a conversational feel, full of piano-driven riffs and jam-packed with baking metaphors. Bareilles is the consummate queen of hooks. Every song is instantly singable, each with beautifully melodic tunes full of unexpected intervals.”
“Paulus very skilfully directs the scenes with husband Earl (Peter Hannah). The threat of violence is always latent, but only barely displayed. We don’t need to see physical violence to recognise an abusive, coercive, incredibly toxic relationship.”
“The ending is conveniently swift and certain, resolving many its problems with a dusting of sugar. But the show is never too sickly sweet not to have serious points to make, and to make them forcefully.”
Tim Bano, The Stage
The Guardian ★★★
“Initially, the show struck me as raucous and improbable. Bareilles’ lyrics often get lost under an over-loud onstage band and I couldn’t wholly believe in the plight of the pregnant protagonist, Jenna, a waitress and classy pie cook in a typical American diner…But I found myself warming to Jessie Nelson’s book and to the vigour of the songs.
“The performances, in Diane Paulus’s lively production, are very much part of the show’s appeal. Katharine McPhee, from the original New York cast, endows Jenna with a vulnerability, kindness and inbuilt sadness that only finds release in her extramarital fling: she also delivers her big climactic solo with real verve.”
“….a show that has a fair share of schlock but a genuinely warm heart.”
Michael Billington, The Guardian
Financial Times [paywall] ★★★
“Bareilles’ tunes are for the most part bouncy and propulsive. The musical idiom doesn’t incline in any particular direction: an astute blend of stage musical and more-or-less-pop. American Idol alumna Katharine McPhee, in common with most of the principals, has a semi-nasal contemporary singing voice, but she and her fellows don’t toss their power around aimlessly: the singing is thankfully free of melisma, and those high, sustained, climactic notes are pure, with only a touch of vibrato on the lead-out.”
“The weakest singing voice is that of Jack McBrayer as Dawn’s beloved Ogie, but the mere fact of his being Jack McBrayer more than counterbalances any reservations. He is a master of rural American grinning, gormless gee-whizzery, and his energy and dedication take him where melodic precision doesn’t quite reach.”
“All in all, the show had pretty much won me over by the interval: it contains a palpable strain of sentiment, but not so strong as to trip up the narrative. Alas, the second act heads squarely in the direction so thankfully absent hitherto; a succession of ballads, and after setting up a target of female fulfilment, a plummeting cop-out. The happy ending feels calculated rather than organic, and in the end that near-understanding of all that pie can stand for is spoiled by a sickly final course.”
Ian Shuttleworth, Financial Times
“I have to confess to craving a slice of humble-pie after watching Waitress…a meaty musical packed with delicious filling”
Dominic Cavendish, Telegraph
Average rating score for this production:
Date: 8 March 2019
Written by: Mark Wills
Tags: review round-up, Waitress