Waitress – Bord Gais Energy Theatre – Review
by Fran Winston
Bord Gais Energy Theatre, Grand Canal Square, Dublin 2
Nightly (except Sundays) until June 18th at 7.30pm. Matinees Saturdays at 2.30pm
After being rescheduled twice thanks to the pandemic, Waitress finally makes its Dublin debut. It is based on the surprise hit indie film of the same name which starred Keri Russell but has somewhat eclipsed the original, as the musical has won several awards.
If you’re not familiar with the story it follows Jenna, a small-town waitress with a gift for making unique and delicious pies. Trapped in an unhappy and abusive marriage when she finds herself pregnant, she begins planning her escape. Intending to enter a pie contest with a prize of $20,000 she starts hiding money away to fund her efforts. She also finds comfort in the arms of her doctor when the two begin a passionate affair. But when her husband discovers her stash of money it looks like her dreams of freedom are dashed.
With music and lyrics by Sara Bareilles, many of the songs here are poignant rather than uplifting. There is no one stand out song and many of them are laments designed to tug at your heartstrings. And it works as you feel for Jenna and her plight. There are one or two comedic moments and songs interspersed and these serve as the light to the shade. However, the musical format does mean that sometimes very serious issues are dealt with rather casually which will annoy some people.
The characters are all deeply flawed which is both charming and infuriating. Even the heroine Jenna is far from perfect and although you find yourself rooting for her you will lament her bad decisions. Unlike many musicals, many of these characters are very relatable and – almost – ordinary which adds to the charm of the show.
It is cheesy in parts and heart-wrenching in others and it is all held together by some wonderfully passionate performances from the cast with former Casualty star Chelsea Halfpenny shining in the role of Jenna.
This is not an all-singing, all-dancing type of musical. It’s a slice of whimsy mixed with a heavy dose of reality and topped with just enough sentiment to avoid becoming saccharine. It is a bittersweet slice of life that shows us human frailty in all its forms and will have you running the gamut of emotions. It’s not the kind of show that you leave with the songs stuck in your head and find yourself singing them for days, but it will linger with you long after the curtain falls.