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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  NY Theater Reviews

 
WAITRESS
at Brooks Atkinson Theatre

GET IT WHILE YOU CAN
By SANDY MACDONALD

  Keala Settle, Jessie Mueller and Kimiko Glenn/ Ph: Joan Marcus

The domestic violence alluded to obliquely in Waitress, a winning movie-musicalization designed to showcase the country-tinged songwriting of Sara Bareilles, is never as overt as the abuse at the core of The Color Purple, but it’s nonetheless unsettling. You have only to see loutish Earl (Nick Cordero) nonchalantly pocket the tips earned by his hard-working waitress wife, Jenna (Jessie Mueller), to register the imbalance in the relationship.

Impending parenthood only intensifies Earl’s narcissism. His initial reaction, when Jenna reluctantly announces that she’s pregnant, is concern that he’ll be upstaged. She has scarcely delivered, in a moving scene toward the end of the musical, when Earl – who otherwise doesn’t have a whole lot to say – cautions, “Don’t you go lovin’ that baby more than me.”

The arc of the story is Jenna’s struggle to extricate herself from this soul-crushing marriage before parenting mires her more deeply. She’s abetted in her efforts by sympathetic coworkers Becky (Keala Settle, characteristically brassy) and dweebish little Dawn (Kimiko Glenn, who can sing 10 times her weight in gold). A side plot – it’s a story unto itself – concerns timid Dawn’s budding romance with super-geek Ogie (spectacularly over-the-top Christopher Fitzgerald). Ogie is not what you’d call commitment phobic. His anthem “Never Ever Getting Rid of Me” is the show’s comic high point.

But Jenna has her moments, too, especially when she finds herself crushing on her gynecologist, Dr. Pomatter (warm-voiced Drew Gehlin). Bonding over one of Jenna’s confections – she’s evidently a MacArthur-level pie genius – they give in to their appetites with “It Only Takes a Taste.”

The AMA might frown on their liaison, but the consensus among Jenna’s cohorts is basically: Get it while and with whomever you can. Soon we’re seeing three couples comically copulating in sync (choreography by Lorin Latarro) and Jenna gradually reclaiming her spunk. Mueller has the loveliest voice (and most unassuming presence) on Broadway. If “She Used to Be Mine,” Jenna’s lament for her lost self-respect, doesn’t get you, the birth scene – it’s really a rebirth – surely will.

 


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