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Troubled Relationship Pie: A Review of the Broadway Series’s Production of “Waitress”

Review by Alan Jozwiak of Waitress: Cincinnati Broadway Series

Lenne Klingaman and Jeremy Morse in Broadway Series’ “Waitress”

Troubled Relationships are the stock-in-trade for Broadway shows and Waitress, the latest production presented by Fifth-Third Bank Broadway in Cincinnati Presented by Tri-Health, has plenty of troubled relationships.

Jenna (Desi Oakley) is a waitress at Joe’s Pie Diner and is a master at making pies that have odd names (like “Troubled Relationship Pie”) that people love to eat.  However, she has to face her abusive husband, Earl (Nick Bailey), who monitors her every move and is intimidated by her success.  The musical becomes Jenna’s search to escape from Earl, all the while trying to deal with her pregnancy by Earl and her love for her gynecologist Dr. Pomatter (Bryan Fenkart).

Based off the 2007 film of the same name, this is a down-to-earth story of people trying to make their way in the world.  It does not have an epic plot like some Broadway shows, but instead settles for the everyday triumphs and troubles of the people who inhabit Joe’s Pie Diner.  It is also unique in that the show itself was the first all-female created Broadway show that ended up being nominated for four Tony Awards.

The cast for this production is strong, with Desi Oakley being a standout.  She is able to deftly belt out such wonderful songs as “What Baking Can Do” and “She Used to be Mine.”  Oakley also has that down-home charm that makes the audience root for her throughout her relationship troubles.  You can feel for her struggles, making her triumph at the end all the sweeter.

Kudos also go to Byran Fenkart who plays Jenna’s star-crossed lover Dr. Pomatter.  Fenkart is a master at physical humor and it was delightful to see his dancing around the doctor’s office doing all sorts of antics as he is trying to hide his affair with Jenna from Nurse Norma (Maeisha McQueen).  McQueen’s expressions on trying to process the affair between Dr. Pomatter and Jenna are truly wonderful.

Two other standouts were Dawn (Lenne Klingaman) and her eccentric boyfriend Ogie (Jeremy Morse).  Klingaman is wonderful, playing the lone misfit searching for love.  We sympathize with her plight and cheer when she finally meet Ogie.  Morse steals the show whenever he comes onstage. He is a force of nature and is truly wonderful to watch as he courts he beloved Dawn.

One of the joys of this musical was that the music itself was a cut above what is seen with your typical Broadway movie-musical.  Kudos to Sara Bareilles to create some wonderful memorable songs, like “She Used to be Mine” and “Everything Changes.”  These are some strong songs which hopefully will enter into the standard repertoire of Broadway songs sung in cabarets and revues.

In conclusion, Waitress is a delightful little show that will get audiences to cheer for the Jenna as she makes some difficult decisions and overcomes her Troubled Relationship Pie.  As a baker myself, I particularly loved the kitchen scenes where Jenna is a coming up with all of her different pie ideas.  It rang true to life, although I have never spontaneously burst into song while I bake.

Maybe I can try that the next time I bake a pie.

Waitress runs from January 9-21, 2018 at the Aronoff Center for the Arts.  Tickets can be purchased by calling the Aronoff Center Box Office at (513) 621-2787 or by going to their website https://www.cincinnatiarts.org/events.  Buy your tickets early.  Opening night was fuller than normal and once word spreads about this show, it is almost certain to sell out.