“Waitress” live inspires audience to understand “What’s Inside” them as a person and pursue their happiness. And when the lead Desi Oakley delivered this tune live it only further drove home the story’s message.
“Waitress The Musical” go all out in their final showing in Minneapolis, Sunday. Grammy nominee Sara Bareilles’ Broadway musical tour inspired by Adrienne Shelley’s 2007 motion picture was brought to Minneapolis Thanksgiving week from November 21-26 to perform eight shows. In their final show they gave Minneapolis a treat.
Jenna (Oakley) is a waitress at Joe’s Pie Diner with a special gift as a pie genius which she took after from her late mother. When Dr. Pomatter tells her she’s pregnant Jenna says she’s not happy about it and it’s because she’s not happy with her life. Working at the diner she’s married to Earl (Nick Bailey) an arrogant drunk who has his own name tattooed on his chest bragging its in “Mid-evil” font and makes Jenna take the bus home on Tuesday nights while he gets drunk with his friends. When Earl loses his job he tells Jenna it’s her job to take care of him.
When Jenna hears of a pie contest in Springfield she’s later encouraged to save up to enter the contest so she and her baby can leave town and Earl behind in hopes for a better life. After frequent visits in Dr. Pomatter’s office turn into a space for their affair they fall in love but when Earl suddenly finds money hidden around the house he confronts her and it rocks her initial plan.
Playing Earl, Bailey was able to master this character as he kept the tempermate and aggression of Earl slightly balanced with Earl’s mood swings of prideful joy, jealously and glimpses of emotion he showcases when he fears Jenna may leave him. There’s no better example of him showcasing this than the scene where Jenna reveals to him she’s pregnant.
After an irate Earl was getting physical with Jenna after losing his job he halts his aggression when Jenna says she’s pregnant. He does this to bask in the glory of his own mind saying she could have an “Earl Jr. …the legend lives on,” which the crowd let out a laugh because of how Earl said those words as if it was a good thing. He then dials up the aggression asking her to promise him that she won’t love the baby more than him. Even after drilling her, she leaves the conversation saying no more than “okay” to his request.
While the back-and-fourth bickering between the diner’s Cal (Ryan G. Dunkin) and Becky (Charity Angél Dawson) never gets old it takes a twists when they are spotted kissing when Jenna walks in to work. The double affair between the two had Jenna flustered saying they could both end up hurting their spouses. When Becky says its an accident, Jenna doesn’t allow her to down play it saying “Cal didn’t just trip in your va-jay-jay” which drew one of the loudness laughs of the night. Throughout the show Dunkin and Dawson both had their lines entertaining the crowd but none leaving an impression quite the same as actress Maiesha McQueen playing Nurse Norma.
McQueen really showed how less is more using her voice, timing and delivery on one liners that drew laughs longer than her actual dialogue. When it came to the comedy of this play she was definitely the star in that area. While her character frequently drops her two cents in about Dr. Pomatter and Jenna’s affair, McQueen’s performance adds up helping the show give the crowd their money’s worth.
In the story Dawn (Lenne Klingman) is a fellow waitress of Jenna and Becky at the diner and later inspires Jenna to pursue love through her relationship where she eventually gets married. Klingman embodied Dawn as bubbly and spunky.
“I finally understand the Declaration of Independence. The right to pursue life, love and liberty,” when Dawn tells these words to Jenna it rings true for Jenna.
Jenna finally realizes her potential and knowing she has all the ingredients to be special like her mother thought she would. Somehow she can’t escape her mother’s generational curse of leaving their an abusive husband and after feeling once again trapped she feels the real Jenna is no longer around. When Oakley sings “She Used to Be Mine” she sung it with so much heart and passion where a few people at Orpheum Theatre on a Sunday night had tears rolling down their cheeks. She hit and stretched several high notes on that song drawing the loudest applause of the night.
But when everything once again seems bleak for Jenna, she has her baby and once she enters motherhood the strong Jenna is back. When Earl threatens that her life would be nothing without him her words back had the crowd rolling: “I will flatten your ass out and enjoy doing it.”
Oakley shines in taking the audience with her on an emotional journey. In the story the audience won’t see all the cards fall the way they wanted for Jenna but enough to feel inspired to pursue life, love and liberty. Those familiar with the soundtrack will be more than delighted to hear Oakley perform those songs on another level.
Most importantly the morale of the story of doing what makes you happy, standing up for yourself and not settling in life can be carried with the crowd as they leave the theatre. As Jenna learned, everyone has these ingredients in them just like a simple pie with “sugar, butter, flour.”
By Gino Terrell