Reviewed by Nikki Cotter
Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Having been delayed by a year due to the pandemic, theatre fans can finally satisfy their cravings for first-class musical theatre as Broadway and West End smash-hit show Waitress serves up an absolute treat of a night at Manchester’s Opera House.
Based on the 2007 film by Adrienne Shelly, with musical with direction by Diane Paulus, book by Jessie Nelson’ and music and lyrics by Sara Bareilles, Waitress is a delicious concoction of self-empowerment, sisterhood, and some seriously satisfying sass.
The story is based around talented baker Jenna (Lucie Jones), who waitresses at Joe’s Pie Diner alongside pals Becky (Sandra Marvin) and Dawn (Evelyn Hoskins), the trio of Southern Belles may be tough talkin’ but their friendship is as sweet as apple pie.
While Jenna is famous locally for her showstopping flavour combinations her private life is nothing worth celebrating. Trapped in an abusive marriage, her thuggish husband Earl (Nathanael Landskroner) belittles her at every opportunity, mocking her baking, pocketing her tips and leaving her under no illusions as to who is the boss; so understandably she’s not delighted when she realises, she has her own bun in the oven.
Jenna’s daily fantasies about ways to escape not only offer up the names to her daily specials but also drive the show, while trysts with her gynaecologist, Dr Pomatter (Matt Willis) bring an unexpected twist.
This feel-good feminist tale has empowerment running right through it as Jenna moves from trying to bake her troubles away to gaining a genuine self-awareness and acceptance of who she is and what she stands for. There are important themes covered in Jessie Nelson’s script such as domestic abuse, unwanted pregnancy, and infidelity, these are balanced perfectly with laugh out loud moments and hilarious close to the bone conversations which will have you blinking back the tears one moment and crying with laughter the next.
This is a musical with pure heart, led extraordinarily buy the sensational Lucie Jones, who delivers stand-out ballad She Used To Be Mine with such raw emotion it’s literally show-stopping. Her ode to the girl she once was is truly breath-taking. She is perfection as Jenna and measures the amount of vulnerability and spirit just right.
Perfectly complimenting Jones are Sandra Marvin and Evelyn Hoskins as no-nonsense Becky and wonderfully kooky Dawn. Both are a joy, and the trio together are superb, they breathe brave and brilliant life into each character. Matt Willis is excellent as the clumsy but endearing Dr Pomatter while George Crawford is an absolute delight as scene stealing Ogie. It was wonderful to see Michael Starke back in Manchester delivering a cracking performance as diner owner Joe while Christopher D. Hunt is great fun as Cal.
The lives depicted may be messy and mixed up but they somehow come together to make the perfect recipe leaving the audience uplifted, deeply moved and leaping to their feet for a roaring standing ovation. Waitress is a perfect slice of theatrical magic.
Cathc Waitress at Manchester’s Opera House until Saturday 20th November tickets available here.