Waitress the musical: Sugar, butter, flour and dreams of more than good enough


Simple ingredients can inspire a life of more than just good enough. Waitress, the musical, gives audiences permission to indulge something better.

The sweet aroma of a baked pie can make many people swoon. The combination of sugar, butter and flour when made with heart can evoke many emotions. In Waitress, Jenna and her signature pies tell a story of a woman who dreams of a life more than good enough.

Waitress the Musical, Charity Angel Dawson, Desi Oakley, Lenne Klingaman, national tour, photo Joan Marcus. Provided by Dr. Phillips Center

Based on the independent film of the same name, Waitress is both poignant and funny. With music and lyrics by Sara Bareilles, audiences assume evocative, compelling music would pull at their emotions. What audiences don’t expect are the moments of pure joy and laughter. But, isn’t that juxtaposition true of anyone’s life story?

The story line focuses on Jenna, a waitress at Joe’s Pie Dinner, who expectantly becomes pregnant by her emotionally abusive husband. While Jenna struggles with the idea of leaving her husband and her unplanned pregnancy, she channels her emotions into creating delicious pies. Although the pie names might be unusual, everyone agrees that her pies are superb. Could winning a pie contest be Jenna’s motivation to finally have the good, not just good enough, life for her and her child?

With music and lyrics by Sara Bareilles, I was expecting the emotionally charged ballads. Jenna, played in the national tour by Desi Oakley, has both the vulnerability and spunk that this character needs. Often unsure of herself, Jenna seems scared to put herself first. In “She Used to Be Mine” the audience wills Jenna to be strong and break away from her unhappy marriage and unfulfilling affair. Everyone waits for that joyous moment when she can finally stand on her own.

Waitress the Musical, , Desi Oakley as Jenna national tour, photo Joan Marcus. Provided by Dr. Phillips Center

While the strong emotions get the audience invested in the storyline, the levity makes Waitress more entertaining. Becky, played by Charity Angel Dawson, says what everyone is thinking but is afraid to speak it out loud. In the second act opening number, “I Didn’t Plan It” has strong conviction and conflict in each note. The struggle between what is right and what is wanted is clear as she belts out each note. Still, she doesn’t deny her shortcomings.

The funniest moments of the musical involve Dawn and Ogie. The unlikely couple shows that true love and companionship needs a little nudging. The song “Never Ever Getting Rid of Me” might sound a little stalker-ish, but the over-the-top portrayal by Jeremy Morse has audiences rooting for the love match. From his insane dance moves to the impromptu love poems, Ogie is clearly an audience favorite.

Waitress the Musical, , Lenne Klingaman and Jeremy Morse, Waitress the musical national tour, photo Joan Marcus. Provided by Dr. Phillips Center

Although audiences wish that Jenn’s affair with Dr. Pomatter would bring her fulfillment, it is only a lesson for her to learn. Dr. Pomatter, played by Bryan Fenkart, carefully walks a delicate line between being the right man for Jenna or the boost for her to find a better life. While audiences want to believe in this couple, everyone knows that the affair is only just good enough.

Lastly, the most poignant character in the musical is Joe. The song, “Take It from an Old Man” could move anyone to tears. The raspy quality of Larry Marshall’s voice conveys a life well lived. That song had me recalling dancing with my grandfather and wishing for a piece of his wisdom.

From the songs to the quick-witted phrases, Waitress keeps everyone entertained. Still, one character that weaves the story together never speaks or sings. Jenna’s pies are the emotional heart of the show.

Waitress the musical national tour, photo Joan Marcus. Provided by Dr. Phillips Center

While the pies might have some funny names, they represent Jenna’s self. From remembering baking with her mom to a gesture of gratitude, these pies speak words that Jenna isn’t read to say out loud.

Some people say that you can taste emotion in a well-made dish, that concept is quite clear in this musical. Jenna’s pies bring people to certain realizations through the course of the show. Whether it brings love to Becky and Ogie or freedom from Jenna’s unfulfilled life, food is the universal language that doesn’t need a translator.

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Waitress is currently on a national tour. It plays Dr. Phillips Center in Orlando through Sunday, March 25.

What do you get when you combine flour, butter and sugar? In Waitress, the combination is a harmonious blend of love, laughter and a new life that’ more than just good enough.