Thursday September 20 8:13 am

Spotlighting events along the south shore of Lake Michigan

"Waitress" - Review by Alan Bresloff

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“Waitress” is based on a 2007 film, written by Adrienne Shelly, which was based on yet an earlier film back in 1981 based on yet an earlier film that tells the story of a young woman, Jenna, who works as a waitress, but of great importance, a master pie baker/creator, living in a small town with an unhappy life and marriage. The musical’s book is written by Jessie Nelson with the music and lyrics by Sara Bareilles. The music is pretty country-like, but works well in the story-telling of this saga. I say saga, because the production is pretty close to three hours, which is long for a normal musical ( although the story is so solid and the characters so loveable, time seems to fly.

What makes this story work is the myriad of great talent that Director Diane Paulus and her staff have found. Jenna has two buddies, also waitresses, Becky ( adorably played by Charity Angel Dawson) and Dawn ( the very comical Lenne Klingaman). Each of these ladies is also “stuck” in small town America, doing a job that they would rather not do, but who, as the play proceeds , attempt to find some happiness. In fact, while there are some ups and downs for Jenna, all three of the ladies will become happy at the end of the show.

Jenna finds out early in the story that she is with child, and due to the relationship with her husband, Earl ( Nick Baily), is considering an abortion, but then her friends and then her new doctor, Dr. Pomatter ( deftly handled by Bryan Fenkart), who she discovers she has feelings , convince her to keep the child. He is also married, and is in this small town just because of his wife. The doctor and the patient do fall head over heels in “happiness” ( not true love) and give each other the will to carry on and go forward. The diner is owned by an older man who dines there daily and keeps telling Jenna that her pies are the greatest, with their fancy names and flavors, so she should enter the pie baking contest and start her life all over again. Joe ( played to perfection by Larry Marshall) is a character that will stick out in your mind as one of the most memorable in a musical. I will say no more, except that in act two, you will need a few tissues.

Cal ( Ryan G. Dunkin is a huge man and a huge talent with great comic timing) is the man who runs the diner for Joe and becomes the Man in the life of Becky. Dawn also ends up with a man that she wants nothing to do with at the start, but later, he wins her heart and everything else with his show-stopping number “Never Ever Getting Rid Of Me”- a hoot with an encore done to perfection by the hilarious Ogie ( the amazing Jeremy Morse). FYI-This number is worth the price of admission and helped to take the rating up a level! A special note of yeah to Maiesha McQueen as Nurse Norma as well a solid Grace Stockdale as Mother in Jenna’s flashbacks.

Some of the songs are stand-outs and have great meaning to the story such as Joe’s “Take It From An Old Man” ( tissue time), “A Soft Place To Land” done by our three waitresses, “Bad Idea”, “I Love You Like A Table” ( Ogie again shaking it all up), “She Used To Be Mine” (beautiful number by Jenna, allowing Oakley to show her stuff). Dawn’s “When He Sees Me” is another cute and funny number and Beck’s “I Didn’t Plan It” is a powerhouse to start the second act. As I said, no songs that you will be humming out the door or possibly ever, but an evening of solid entertainment with a story that shows that life, even with little bumps in the road, can come out strong, so never give up or in!

The ensemble members, Jim Hogan, Kyra Kennedy, Mark Christine, Donterrio Johnson and Gerianne Perez filled in the other roles and the baby, around four years later, Lulu is handled by two actresses, Liana Gurevich (who we saw tonight) and Camyrn Cavaliero. The musicians led by conductor Nadia Digiallonardo (also on piano) and Lilli Wosk (keyboard) along with Elena Bonomo (drums), Lexi Bondick (bass), Nick Anton (cello/guitar) and Simon Kafka (guitar), all onstage for most of the show were brilliant. The overall technical aspects of the show which follow the original Broadway production are sharp and well done and the pies used throughout sure make one feel hungry. FYI at intermission you can buy a special box of pies (very small ones, but tasty) created by Eli’s Cheesecake. One strawberry and one blueberry.

“Waitress” will continue at The Cadillac Palace Theatre located at 151 West Randolph Street ( between LaSalle and Wells) thru July 22nd ( so do not hesitate in purchasing your chance to see this new, soon to be classic) with performances as follows:

Tuesdays 7:30 p.m.
Wednesdays 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. NO JULY 4TH show!
Thursdays 7:30 p.m. JULY 5th 2 p.m. added
Fridays 7:30 p.m.
Saturdays 2 and 8 p.m.
Sundays 2 p.m. ADDED July 8th 7 p.m.

Tickets range from $27- $105 and can be purchased at any of the Broadway In Chicago Theatre box offices, by calling the Broadway In Chicago Ticketline at 1-800-725-2000 or online at www.BroadwayInChicago.com