The Broadway musical “Waitress,” showing at the Fox Theatre through Sunday Feb. 10, starts with Jenna (Christine Dwyer) at her waitressing job in the South making pies, her favorite hobby. Soon, the story, with music and lyrics by singer-songwriter Sara Bareilles, introduces her two coworkers and best friends: Becky (Maiesha McQueen) and Dawn (Jessie Shelton). After experiencing nausea on the job, her friends urge her to take a pregnancy test, and you guessed it, she is pregnant. Only, she’s pregnant by her abusive husband Earl (Ryan G. Dunkin). She struggles with having her child with him around, and the story takes off from there.
Because bad news is always preferred first, I have a few bones to pick with this play. All the characters seem to be glaring stereotypes. I mean, you have Becky, the large and in-charge sassy black woman with the slick tongue. Then, there is Dawn, the awkward, hopelessly single nerd who loves to do historical re-enactments in her free time. And the stereotypes don’t stop, even down to Dr. Pomatter’s (Jenna’s love interest and gynecologist, played by Steven Good) assistant, Nurse Norma (played by Rheaume Crenshaw), a sassy, gut-busting Latina character who can’t help but speak 100 mph and roll her neck at every turn she gets. I will say, however, that these flat characters were at no fault of the actors but rather the story itself.
The story seemed so predictable and about as sickeningly sweet as the pie. Without spoiling the entire thing, there is love in the air, not only for our heroine but also our other enduring characters.
The biggest problem for this play was that you could see every supposed surprise from a mile a way. This play did have redeeming qualities, though. Throughout “Waitress” you can see Jenna struggling with loving her unborn child. She seems to want a better life for her but also doesn’t know how to get out of her current situation.
And although this show isn’t passing the Bechdel test anytime soon, by the end of Act Two, you realize this play is a love letter, not to any man, but to Jenna’s baby.
We see Jenna progressively get more and more loving with her daughter, coming to a head in the show’s final moments with the musical number “Dear Baby.”
By the end, we realize that even with all of its stereotypical, sometimes borderline sexist flaws, “Waitress” is a feminist anthem.
VOX teen theatre critics had the opportunity to attend press night at “Waitress” thanks to the generosity of Most Valuable Kids of Greater Atlanta and Broadway in Atlanta.
Broadway in Atlanta presents the national tour of “Waitress” with music and lyrics by Sara Bareilles and a book by Jessie Nelson is at the Fox Theatre through Sunday Feb. 10. Go to foxtheatre.org for tickets.