Before “Waitress” melted hearts on Broadway and beyond, it began humbly as an offbeat 2007 indie film about a small-town waitress with big dreams. Starring Keri Russell as pie baking extraordinaire Jenna Hunterson, the bittersweet dramedy marked an inspiring final work from late director Adrienne Shelly. Nearly a decade later, singer-songwriter Sara Bareilles breathed new life into the story by adapting it into a Broadway musical, penning an emancipating original score that struck a chord with audiences and critics alike.
Though initially snubbed at the Tony’s amidst Hamilton mania, Waitress emerged as a smash sensation in its own right – warming bellies and souls for over 1500 performances on the Great White Way. Now just in time for the holidays, this uplifting musical gets fresh-baked into an intimate filmed production direct from the stage. With Bareilles herself stepping into the iconic lead role, this pro-shot treatment offers fans everywhere a tasty first bite of her rum-soaked performance as Jenna.
Under delicious direction from seasoned vet Diane Paulus, this faithfully funny adaptation dishes out all the familiar comforts; mesmerizing montages of mouthwatering pies, toe-tapping musical numbers, and heaping spoonfuls of small-town sass. But beyond the breezy batter, Bareilles and company bake an empowering story of seeking sweetness when life hands you lemons – proving that a little sugar, butter, and courage can go a long way. So grab your apron and preheat your heart, because Waitress is serving up an inspirational musical treat no theatre lover should miss. Fresh from the oven just in time for the holidays!
More Than Just Another Slice of Pie
Our story opens on Jenna Hunterson (Sara Bareilles), a small-town waitress with big talent for baking pies at Joe’s Diner. Though skilled at crafting sweet treats with quirky names like “Betrayed By My Eggs Pie”, Jenna feels stuck mixing the same old batter in her lackluster life. Trapped in an abusive marriage to controlling husband Earl (Joe Tippett), she numbly moves through each day without joy…until an unexpected bun starts baking in her oven.
After discovering she’s pregnant, Jenna copes by losing herself in pie fantasies, dreaming of the day she’ll gather enough tips to escape this mess of a marriage. But her savings get kneaded into Earl’s greedy fists. The only rays of sunshine come from her sassy co-workers Dawn (Caitlin Houlahan) and Becky (Charity Angél Dawson), who provide gooey support as Jenna’s soul sinks like an under-baked cake.
A pinch of hope enters Jenna’s life upon meeting Dr. Jim Pomatter (Drew Gehling), the dashing yet awkward new gynecologist in town. As their patient-doctor flirtation simmers into a steamy secret romance, Jenna feels herself rising like warm dough – falling for Jim’s affection despite her ethical reservations. Meanwhile, Dawn pursues an eager admirer named Ogie (Christopher Fitzgerald) whose offbeat poetry and persistence pays off in butt-slapping style.
After discovering she’s carrying Earl’s child, Jenna vows to love the baby more than she ever loved her scumbag husband. She funnels her dreams of escaping this miserable marriage into an upcoming pie bake-off, hoping to whisk herself towards a better life through bake sale victory. All the while her spicy affair with Doc Pomatter leaves them both stuffed with happiness yet hungry for more.
As Jenna’s oven timer counts down the coming baby’s arrival, this chef-in-distress concocts the sweetest plan yet to make her own life sweeter. Armed with rolling pin courage and a pantry-full of self-respect, she sets her pecans on giving that betraying scoundrel Earl his walking papers. Because she’s the boss apple of her own pie, and her two best gals have her crust-covered. It’ll take some dough, but this momma’s got the recipe to bake her dreams into reality.
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Bareilles Bakes Up Screen Magic
While beloved for her infectiously catchy piano pop, Sara Bareilles makes a heartstring-tugging jump to center stage for her acting debut in “Waitress: The Musical.” And like her Grammy-nominated pipes, the multi-talented composer brings an equal harmony of humor and pathos to her first leading role – earning an emotional mid-show standing ovation in the process!
As pie-baking songstress Jenna Hunterson, Bareilles bares her soul at rock bottom with a raw authenticity only a spirit sister could summon. We feel every defeated sigh and glimmer of dreamer’s hope as she floats between miserable shifts at Joe’s Diner and her dead-end marriage to scumbag Earl. Bareilles effortlessly juggles Jenna’s happy-go-lucky spunk around the waitressing gals before plunging into depths of defeat back at home, bringing nuanced complexity to this battered yet buoyant dreamer.
While the full cast shines brighter than a baked Alaska, there’s just something about Sara’s smile that hits you square in the feels. In signature sweet yet gritty voice, she belts showstopper “She Used To Be Mine” with resonant yearning – clinging to traces of self-worth beneath Earl’s cruel claws. It’s a soul-scouring moment of awakening, as Bareilles lays bare her golden throat alongside Jenna’s realization that change must rise soon like oven-hot dough.
As her forbidden fling with Doc Pomatter warms from awkward banter towards lusty hunger, Bareilles bubbles with a girlish glee long bottled up by domestic hell. With smitten glances and playful chemistry, we feel the heat between these would-be lovers – made all the more palpable by star-crossed restraint. Bareilles makes us fall helplessly for her happy ending, crossing all fingers that this caterer gets her just desserts!
From bite-size moments of blushing joy to heavy choices weighing on her conscience, Bareilles flexes theatrical mastery over the full emotional spread. She serves each tender, funny, and sobering scene with such stirring naturalism and vocal prowess, you’ll forget playback soundtrack and believe those golden pipes live from her lips. Much like the heavenly pies of Jenna’s imagination, Bareilles brings Ray’s hellish machine to life – and makes even this “bad idea” romance irresistibly craveable comfort food.
Scene-Stealing Supporting Stars
While the musical rests on Bareilles’ able shoulders as Jenna, a charming ensemble fills out her world for a fully-realized Waitress experience. The stage springs to life through vivid secondaries – from Dawn and Becky’s salt-of-the-earth loyalty to Joe Tippett’s skin-crawling cruelty as Earl.
As baby-crazy Dawn, Caitlin Houlahan earns laughs for her offbeat awkwardness then tugs heartstrings expressing self-doubt in romance and life. Her nasally vocals betray hidden confidence coming out of its shell through numbers like “When He Sees Me.” Meanwhile Charity Angél Dawson rules the diner as sassy boss-mom Becky, serving up rational advice and daily reality checks to her girls. With equal measures brass and caretaking, Dawson brings a comforting glow – especially when boosting Dawn’s bizarre courtship with ever-eager Ogie.
Ah yes – Ogie the offbeat suitor! In his big number “Never Ever Getting Rid Of Me,” Christopher Fitzgerald nearly twirls off with the whole show. His gangly grace and accelerate wordplay create an immediate circuit overload of quirky charm. Played at lower voltage however, such an aggressive romantic pursuit may curdle badly. Thankfully Fitzgerald turns the temperature knob just right, ensuring his baking barrage of affection feels earnest rather than alarming.
On the flipside of wholesome suitors, Joe Tippett brings a bone-chilling edge to Jenna’s abusive husband Earl. With dark outbursts and a perpetually clenched jaw, Tippett conveys an unnerving powder-keg danger lying beneath the brutish façade. While lacking the depth of Jenna’s inner conflict, he makes her trapped turmoil abundantly clear.
Lastly as baby doctor heartthrob Jim Pomatter, Drew Gehling balances amusing awkwardness against irresistible appeal. His nervous physical comedy gets big laughs, from fumbling pages to goofily awkward embraces. But when focused solely on Jenna, Gehling simmers with sincere warmth that could thaw Sara’s frozen heart. We feel their instant magnetism through fumbling flirtations gradually melting into reckless abandon.
From top to bottom crust, this ace ensemble complements Bareilles with distinct flair – adding laughs, feels, and intimate insight throughout our pie-maker’s journey. They collectively serve up the full tasting menu of humanity around Jenna, heightening her solitary plight to soaring theatrical heights. The only dish left wanting is a bigger slice of villainous complexity from scoundrel Earl. But the rest satisfy as rich reminders that even life’s cruelest seasons pass with enough sugar and spice.
A Sweet Slice of Spectacular Soundtrack
Beyond boasting a literal best-selling recording artist in Bareilles, Waitress serves up a full platter of musical morsels spanning humor, heartache, and small-town sass. With acclaimed singer-songwriter Sara herself penning the numbers, this soundtrack offers clever lyrics which advance plot and provide insight into the lovable characters that sing them.
The catchy tunes draw from a recipe of genres – blending country, pop, and Broadway flourishes into melodic confections. From Top 40-ready anthems like “She Used To Be Mine” to twangy ballads such as “It Only Takes A Taste”, Bareilles flexes versatile chops tailored to each scene. Jenna’s baking reveries receive bouncy beats while reflective interludes simmer in atmospheric strings. Throughout the varied vibes, the cast harmonizes in smooth, often yearning deliveries that lift spirits as quickly as they tug heartstrings.
While the entire playlist serves up jukebox-worthy hits, Act 1 highlight “When He Sees Me” particularly stands out. In this country-pop bop, Dawn daydreams a delightfully awkward meet-cute fantasy with her ideal suitor. Caitlin Houlahan sings with earnest both hopeful and hilarious as she second-guesses her self-confidence. Meanwhile as top track “She Used To Be Mine” closes the act, Bareilles soulfully mourns the loss of youthful spirit and self-worth faded by domestic toxicity and time.
Beyond narrative impact, the numbers check every musical box from fun energy to technical wizardry. Many feature complex counterpoints layering contrasting beats and harmonies to creative effect. Lyrics pop with clever specificity, seen in Ogie’s rapidfire introductory number fitting 19th century romantic references into almost every line!
By song’s sweet end, the substantive soundtrack achieves all essential goals: Establishing tone, advancing plot for key characters, showcasing lead vocals while allowing room for supporting stars to shine. Not unlike the heavenly confections of heroine Jenna’s dreams…with a thematic cherry or two on top.
Silver Screen Magic
After winning over Broadway crowds for 1500-plus shows, Waitress transitions its small-town story to an intimate filmed adaptation – preserving treasured charm while creatively utilizing the camera’s advantages. Following on the heels of other hit stage-to-screen transfers like Hamilton, this pro-shot treatment offers fans an in-demand front row view of pie-baking songstress Sara Bareilles and her dazzling return to the lead role.
Shot during a limited 2021 theatrical run, director Diane Paulus artfully blends lingering wide views that establish atmosphere with judicious close-ups adding emotional immediacy. We spend much time observing full stage choreography and ensemble performances – witnessing the show as live crowds did nightly. Yet editors also utilize reaction shots and isolation frames to draw focus toward individual characters, frequently spotlighting Bareilles in clinch scenes.
When the quiet fantasy number “She Used To Be Mine” swells dramatically, isolated images of Sara clutching her heart add extra gut-punch poignancy to Jenna’s low-point realization. Crossfading visuals further accentuate imagination coming alive, using overlapping imagery and flowing scene changes. Through these slick editing tricks in moderation, Waitress flavors core theatrical integrity with welcome cinematic garnish.
At times however, overly busy editing distracts more than enhances – particularly in the opening diner sequence’s swirling camera and rapid cuts. Quick-flashing closeups disorient amidst multiple characters being introduced at once. Thankfully such frenetic energy remains rare as directors soon lock into a steady groove, allowing performances room to breathe while applying judicious closeups for added oomph.
Overall this pro-shot treatment translates Waitress to screen with thought and care – highlighting unforgettable Bareilles songs and vulnerable acting turns through smart, restrained filmmaking choices. While perhaps less consistently thrilling than Hamilton’s atmospheric movie makeover, it carries enough cozy charm and heartstring-tugging pathos to satisfy established fans and newcomers alike. Consider it the theatrical equivalent of á la mode – layering cinematic style atop a delicious stage production without overpowering fundamentally flavorsome ingredients.
Empowering Slice of Life
Beyond the breezy batter of laughs and romance, Waitress serves a bittersweet yet inspirational tale about taking one’s life by the crust. While labeled a “feminist fable”, the musical explores universal themes of personal growth, overcoming adversity, and mustering courage to change unhealthy circumstances.
Our heroine Jenna certainly endures her share of tragedy – from domestic abuse to death of loved ones. Yet the story never wallows needlessly in hardship simply to stack the deck. Jenna’s central struggle emerges honestly from pursuing her dreams amidst difficult realities…while finding support from salt-of-the-earth friends.
Yes, the majority female creative team and lead characters tackle women’s issues with humor and wisdom. But the show transcends niche categorization. Because beneath the oppression, Jenna’s central arc traces a universally hopeful message – that with enough faith in oneself and allies at one’s side, life always holds possibility for something sweeter.
Without spoiling specifics, the ending shows our pastry princess seizing control of her future – finally mustering the moxie to escape toxic elements rather than simply cope. Her journey towards self-acceptance and self-rescue makes the perfect ingredient for empowering theatre…with a cherry of hard-won optimism on top.
Along the journey, Jenna suffers her share of tribulation. Yet each setback draws experience-tempered strength meant to uplift audiences enduring their own difficult seasons. As the closing song promises: no matter how cruel life’s ingredients may seem, “everything changes” in time as new recipes give new perspective.
Fittingly, creators even dedicate the show to departed artistic collaborators – including original filmmaker Adrienne Shelly and Broadway’s first Earl, Nick Cordero. May their spirits, like Jenna’s motherly guiding voice, continue empowering dreamers to live their sweetest lives.
A Sweet Slice of Broadway Magic
In an age where Broadway spectaculars increasingly lean on familiar titles and elaborate spectacle, Waitress stands out as a wholly original concept exuding enormous heart. Beyond the catchy Sara Bareilles soundtrack or scenes of mouthwatering pie preparation lies an empowering fable about overcoming life’s challenges through courage and community.
While the stage musical enjoyed a legendary 1500-performance run, this intimate filmed adaptation offers wider audiences a chance to savor its soaring spirit this holiday season. As pie-making protagonist Jenna, composer Bareilles herself bakes up an outstanding film debut – bringing the full spectrum of feminine experience to life with such stirring emotion and golden pipes. Buoyed by laughs and tears in equal measure, Waitress captures the communal magic of live theatre from the comfort of cinema seats.
So treat yourself to this heartwarming musical treat – a rare blend of stellar vocals, clever humor, and cathartic storytelling the whole family can share. Because while life may not always serve the sweetest slices, this scrumptious filmed Broadway production reminds one and all: with enough hope inside, the rest makes a perfect pie.
Waitress: The Musical
Like a warm slice of pie on a rainy day, Waitress soothes and satisfies soul and spirit. Between the witty humor and empowering message, it makes for a sweet-spirited crowd-pleaser sure to be savored by Broadway lovers and casual viewers alike. Led by Sara Bareilles' star-making turn, the stellar cast and catchy soundtrack turn this heartfelt gem into a theatrical event worth celebrating.
- Sara Bareilles gives a stunning lead performance both acting and singing
- Funny, witty humor balances poignant emotional moments
- Empowering message and themes of overcoming adversity
- Excellent supporting cast brings heart and laughs
- Catchy, clever musical numbers advance plot and develop characters
- Editing can be distracting and disorienting at times
- Complex exposition early on makes story take awhile finding footing
- Villainous characters lack nuance or redemptive qualities