Musicals are wonderful things – they can be set anywhere… high schools… London buses… The streets of Paris… And now, a pie diner in America.
Waitress is a musical I was aware of, but knew very little about. It’s one of those shows that you see advertised on billboards and on posters in the Tube when you go to London.
So, I was able to approach this production with a completely open mind as it arrived in Glasgow’s King’s Theatre.
The tone’s set from the word go – this is going to be fun. The reminder to switch off your mobile is delivered as a musical witty ditty – and completely sets the mood, as we see a pie lid on the curtain, as we waited for it to rise.
We meet Jenna (Chelsea Halfpenny), a waitress and expert pie-maker who dreams of some happiness in her life. Unfortunately, she’s trapped in a dead marriage to Earl (Tamlyn Henderson with a good for nothing husband who takes her money, and whilst serving Joe (Michael Starke, best known as Sinbad in Brookside), the owner of the diner where she works, the smell of coffee makes her nauseous.
At this point, we meet Jenna’s workmates Becky (Wendy Mae Brown) and Dawn (Evelyn Hoskins), who we soon discover are having difficulties in their own lives – Becky is left to care for her ill husband, who needs his diapers changed three times a day, whilst Dawn is a slightly more socially awkward individual, who is desperate for a date.
Jenna discovers that her previous doctor has retired, and has been replaced by a hot new male replacement, Dr Pomatter (Matt Jay-Willis – former member of jumpy-shouty boyband Busted, and these days, better known as the husband of TV darling Emma Willis), and when the pair click, life gets complicated.
When Earl finds out Jenna is pregnant, he wants assurances that he will be her priority, not the baby, and she starts to plan for the future by hiding her money.
There’s brilliant upbeat songs throughout, including Club Knocked Up, Bad Idea (which is hilarious) and It Only Takes a Taste.
We also have quieter moments, as we are privy to Jenna’s thoughts, when the lights drop and a little song is sung, to take a break from the main narrative.
Jenna’s battle with her head (to leave Earl) and her heart (to be with the married Dr Pomatter) plays throughout, and it’s impossible not to fall in love with Halfpenny as Jenna, who displays an amazing vocal range throughout.
Willis is good as Pomatter, playing a range of physical comedy throughout, with a decent voice, while Wendy Mae Brown is highly entertaining as Becky – and possesses an incredibly powerful voice.
But my real star was Hoskins as Dawn. She delivers an amazing performance, both physically and vocally, as her body language conveys so much of the character’s nervousness and awkwardness. She has the classic ‘take off your glasses and let your hair down and you’re beautiful’ moment, and has a really sweet, fun relationship with Ogie (George Crawford), who initially comes across as a little creepy and stalkerish, but eventually is revealed to be the love of her life.
And if you like wee Easter eggs, keep an eye on the daily specials board – there’s some very funny gags on there.
Waitress is a show to see – it’s got all the right ingredients for a good night out. Take a sprinkling of good humour, a dash of great songs, a spoonful of great characters, topped with a first class cast, and leave it for almost two-and-a-half hours, and you’ve got the recipe for success.
Waitress is at the King’s Theatre, Glasgow, until Saturday, 16 April. Tickets are available from £13.00, subject to a transaction fee of £2.85 from HERE.