Caitlin Houlahan and Chris Fitzgerald. Photo by Jeremy Daniel.
Based on the motion picture by Adrienne Shelly
Book by Jessie Nelson
Music and lyrics by Sara Bareilles
Directed by Diane Paulus
Betsy Wolfe, Charity Angél Dawson, Caitlin Houlahan, Drew Gehling, Matt DeAngelis, Larry Marshall, Eric Anderson, Jeremy Morse, Dayna Jarae Dantzler, Kayla Davion, Tyrone Davis, Jr., Matt DeAngelis, Law Terrell Dunford, Cate Elefante, Henry Gottfried, Molly Hager, Molly Jobe,. Max Kumangai, Anastacia McCleskey, Ella Dane Morgan, Stephanie Torn
Choreographer: Lorin Latarro
Sets: Scott Pask
Costumes: Suttirat Larlarb
Lights: Christopher Akerlind
Sound: Jonathan Deans
First Performance March 25, 2016
Opening April 24, 2016
Submit a review for Waitress
Brought to life by a groundbreaking all-female creative team, this irresistible new hit features original music and lyrics by 6-time Grammy® nominee Sara Bareilles (“Brave,” “Love Song”), a book by acclaimed screenwriter Jessie Nelson (I Am Sam) and direction by Tony Award® winner Diane Paulus (Pippin, Finding Neverland). “It’s an empowering musical of the highest order!” raves the Chicago Tribune.
Inspired by Adrienne Shelly’s beloved film, WAITRESS tells the story of Jenna, a waitress and expert pie maker who dreams of a way out of her small town and loveless marriage. A baking contest in a nearby county and the town’s new doctor may offer her a chance at a fresh start, while her fellow waitresses offer their own recipes for happiness. But Jenna must summon the strength and courage to rebuild her own life.
“WAITRESS is a little slice of heaven!” says Entertainment Weekly and “a monumental contribution to Broadway!” according to Marie Claire. Don’t miss this uplifting musical celebrating friendship, motherhood, and the magic of a well-made pie.
Charles Isherwood – New York Times
But it is when Ms. Mueller tears into the musical’s climactic number, “She Used to Be Mine,” that her talents are most fully and movingly harnessed. In this emotionally intricate song, Jenna looks at herself from the outside, analyzing the conflicts and complexities within her: “She is messy but she’s kind/She is lonely most of the time.” In acknowledging the mistakes she’s made and the regret she’s allowed to puncture her self-esteem, Jenna finds a voice for the nascent, regenerating woman within her. Ms. Mueller’s vibrant performance of this gentle but wrenching song, featuring a melody that soars and then recedes in waves, is the high point of the show — and for that matter a high point of the Broadway season. Suddenly, a pleasant and polished but weightless musical comedy rises to transporting heights, and sweeps up your heart along with it.
Marilyn Stasio – Variety
“Waitress” owes its sweetness to the mouth-watering goodness of Jessie Mueller. As a diner waitress named Jenna, Mueller is such a honey bun, she melts us like the mounds of butter that make Jenna’s homemade pies so luscious. The musical resorts to comic overkill to create characters based on Adrienne Shelly’s 2007 indie rom-com. But Sara Bareilles has written a charming score that suits the quirky material and Mueller’s dazzling voice and endearing personality.
Jeremy Gerard – Deadline
To all of that Bareilles, Nelson, director Diane Paulus and choreographer Lorin Latarro remain faithful, sacrificing little of the film’s nuance while only occasionally spilling over into sitcomland silliness. The positives far outnumber the negatives. Jenna is a heroine of the moment, taking control of her life and offering no apologies for her choices, even — or especially — the arguable ones. Mueller has a girl-next-door appeal that sublimates into something less earthbound when she sings, her pleasingly throbby mezzo a purring engine in ballads until she lets out the reins and the horsepower kicks in.
Robert Hofler – The Wrap
And speaking of noise, Jonathan Deans’ harsh sound design turns “Waitress” into the most over-amplified show on Broadway, and that includes “School of Rock.” Why is the entire cast running around with rock-star mics stuck to their heads when they’re playing in a 1,000-seat theater with a five-piece band? Those over-the-ear mics look like an antler dislodged from a Christmas costume. Worse, they distort practically every note not sung mezza voce.
Jessica Derschowitz – Entertainment Weekly
Sugar, butter, flour — there are plenty of those ingredients, particularly the sweet stuff, in the musical Waitress, which opened Sunday night at Broadway’s Brooks Atkinson Theatre. They mix in a refrain heard throughout the production, as well as the elaborate pies the show’s heroine crafts. And much like those desserts, Waitress is a sweet slice of a show that shines with the help of a star ingredient: Tony winner Jessie Mueller.
Charles McNulty – Los Angeles Times
The musical’s lovely score by Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter Sara Bareilles gives Mueller plenty of opportunity to expose Jenna’s inner drama. The style of the songs evokes at times Sarah McLachlan and Joni Mitchell, with Mueller tracing emotional arcs over a sliding vocal range. There are beautiful harmonies throughout, a couple of high-spirited group numbers and some jaunty orchestral use of kitchen utensils, but the score is notable for allowing Mueller to bare Jenna’s soul in a wash of ethereal jazz.
David Rooney – The Hollywood Reporter
Paulus’ staging has impressive fluidity, but at times tends to push the broad comedy with a heavy, somewhat patronizing hand. And yet it’s tough to resist the inevitable turn of Becky’s adversarial rapport with rough-hewn Cal (Eric Anderson), the diner cook, as their sheepish mutual attraction surfaces. The same goes for the romantic awakening of nerdy Dawn, who has never had a boyfriend, until her online dating profile lures Ogie, an eccentric stalker who turns out to be her soul mate. Christopher Fitzgerald is a genuinely nutty scene-stealer in that role. Glenn (an Orange is the New Black regular) is hilarious and touching singing “When He Sees Me,” and while Settle’s big Broadway belt is an imperfect fit for the poppy attitude of Becky’s “I Didn’t Plan It,” the performer sells the unapologetic self-affirmation with gusto. A sight gag in which all three waitresses enjoy some afternoon delight gets a massive laugh.
Matthew Murray – Talkin’ Broadway
It’s not Mueller’s fault she can’t make this work, but she’s nonetheless miscast, with her slightly off-kilter streetwise attitude forever tangling with the earnest-but-trapped Jenna. Worse, Mueller’s voice is constantly at odds with the music: She’s often pulled so far into her head voice (by Bareilles, who employs that style for herself but doesn’t know how to adapt it for someone with a markedly different timber) that she stumbles at giving much of the music even a general emotional anchor. Much of the rest of her material lands as monotonous, pseudo-country twang, which gives her no room to either charm or blow the roof off (which she proved herself capable of doing in the 2011 revisal of On a Clear Day You Can See Forever). Mueller, or anyone who creates a part, deserves better.
Chris Jones – Chicago Tribune
The band is on stage and thus inside the diner. Since most roadside pie joints aren’t filled with musicians, this would seem like a contrivance, but one of the many qualities of Paulus’ staging is that it does not feel that way at all. Indeed, the presence of these interlopers seems like the most natural thing in the world, partly because Paulus so deftly attaches the musicians to the customers but mostly because of the warmth, color and bustle of the atmosphere. The show has made much of its decision to bake real pies on Scott Pask’s exceptionally vibrant set, but its more important calling card is its ability to romanticize the rural small-town diner (this show has New York values, that’s for sure) without looking down on it from some Brooklyn vista. Paulus’ best work here is the vivacity of her picture of quotidian human resilience.
Jesse Green – Vulture
Waitress can still be an uncomfortable genre mix: domestic-violence drama and workplace rom-com. That’s in the source material, and the musicalization exaggerates it. What I certainly didn’t expect, though, is that the musicalization could also help to justify the mismatch. As the story rushed toward its multiple conclusions — a typical Broadway problem the creative team was unable to solve — I began to understand that for these characters, life itself is an uncomfortable genre mix. Seeing that and sharing it is the start of their mastering it. Perhaps it really did take an all-female creative team to understand how such a story could be true, and how it could sing. If so, well, hand me a slice of that humble pie.