TPAC’s latest production in its all-star summer lineup is Waitress, the musical based off the hit 2007 film of the same name.
Two-time Tony Award nominee and six-time Grammy nominee Sara Bareilles brings the narrative to life with an engaging, upbeat soundtrack that will make you laugh, cry, smile and everything in-between.
Desi Oakley leads the cast as Jenna, a waitress at the local southern diner who has a propensity for making delicious, unique pies, and who also finds herself unexpectedly pregnant while in an abusive marriage with her husband Earl.
Waitress is definitely a musical driven by vocal performance rather than dance (unlike last season’s American in Paris, which featured ballerinas in the lead roles and was driven more towards dance rather than acting and singing).
Oakley’s vocal performance is outstanding, and she is by far the star of the show. Her rendition of “She Used to Be Mine” is especially good.
Charity Angél Dawson plays Jenna’s cheeky coworker/best friend Becky, and Lenne Klingaman plays awkward Dawn, another fellow waitress and friend at the diner.
However, Jeremy Morse nearly steals the show as Ogie, Dawn’s first love interest and future husband. Morse’s long rendition of “Never Getting Rid of Me” is sure to delight, getting the crowd laughing after emotionally-taxing scenes between Jenna and Earl.
Waitress is raw, depicting the ups and downs of life without hesitation, and it is a show more geared towards adults than young families with children. It does have some coarse language and deals with heavy themes such as abusive marriage and adultery.
In each scene that Ogie and Dawn appear, however, they lighten the mood; whether it be Ogie’s amusing spontaneous poetry recitations or their civil war reenactments, they’re sure to lighten the mood.
An especially interesting feature of the show’s tour comes from the little girls who alternate playing Lulu, Jenna’s daughter: Ellie James and Olivia James Graves, both 5 years old. Both of the girls are local talent, and Waitress marks their acting debut.
Waitress truly shines in its ability to get you laughing out loud, then breaking your heart in the very next scene. But despite these in-between moments, its ultimate message is about hope and finding happiness. All in all, Waitress is an excellent choice to spend one of your summer nights.
And it just might be as good as one of Jenna’s famous homemade pies.
Photo courtesy of the Tennessee Performing Arts Center; Joan Marcus