Waitress Was Not Worth The Wait

img_8694Before seeing it at the NAC, I had never heard of Waitress before.  And I had no idea that the Broadway musical was based on a movie until I read about it in the programme.  This was not a show I was interested in seeing, but I had received a ticket from a family member.  I love going to the theatre, so I accepted the ticket and hoped that I would be pleasantly surprised.  Unfortunately, this was a musical I could have done without seeing.

I think my biggest problem with it is the story; my dislike of the plot overshadowed everything and made it difficult to enjoy the aspects of the musical that were actually well done.  Any technical issues or questionable artistic choices could have been easily forgiven if I had actually enjoyed the story.  For starters, I don’t typically enjoy rom coms or really any other kind of romance-based story, so it would have taken a really engrossing tale to get me interested in this. But the story was fairly weak and predictable, and the genre wasn’t even the worst part for me.

The men in this play made me uncomfortable; and it wasn’t even a “thought provoking” kind of uncomfortable. Naturally, the abusive husband, Earl (Clayton Howe), is the villain, but all of the “good guys” are just as bad. Joe (Michael R. Douglass), although a father figure for Jenna (Bailey McCall), is rude towards the waitresses and just about everybody else.  Cal (Jake Mills) is rude, sexist, and adulterous. Ogie (Brian Lundy) is seen as a good match for Dawn (Gabriella Marzetta), despite the fact that he threatens to stalk her if she doesn’t go out with him.  And, because there’s not enough adultery in the story already, the main love interest Dr. Pomatter (David Socolar) is cheating on his wife with his patient.  The fact that the women in the story were ok with these cringeworthy romantic options was not ok with me.

I feel that if the plot had been strong enough, or if it had been more of a drama than a comedy, a story like this could have actually been good.  It just didn’t quite work. I do enjoy the comedic elements that frequently appear in Broadway musicals, but I want to laugh, not cringe or, worse, be bored. I found a lot of the comedy was forced, which overshadowed some of the comedic moments that were actually well done.  There were a handful of well thought out gags, and some moments that got half a chuckle out of me, but the play was so oversaturated in forced comedy that the good moments just didn’t stand out as much as they should have.

The music, arguably one of the most important components of a Broadway musical, actually wasn’t that bad.  Some of the songs were pretty catchy (although I’ve forgotten all but one of the tunes by the time I’m writing this), but it felt like basic Broadway.  That’s not necessarily a bad thing, it’s just that I was so unimpressed with the story that music that could have sounded great just sounded good. Thankfully, the band playing the music was fantastic.  My only issue was that I ended up in a seat off to the side and couldn’t see them all that well.  From what I could see, they and their instruments were well integrated into the set, and the musicians interacted with the other performers as if they too were a part of the story.  The cast itself even did a good job with the acting and singing.

The absolute best part of the whole play, however, was the set and the props.  The various sets were nice, but the diner was phenomenal.  And the prop cakes that filled it were gorgeous.  I really wanted to get up close and get a better look at all of the details in the sets and props.  Visually, this was a fun looking musical, and the look of the diner alone made me wish I liked the show more than I did.

So, all in all, this wasn’t really a bad show, just a bad story.  The actors and musicians did a good job with what they had to work with, and the sets and props made the mediocre moments more watchable.  Overall, I think everyone involved did the best they could with what I felt was a weak script.  It didn’t wow me, and it’s not something I’ll ever want to watch again, but it was clear that the cast and crew worked hard on this.

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