Tuesday, December 04, 2018

Theater Review: "Waitress"

"Waitress" is just about as upbeat a musical as you could possibly have about such dark things as spousal abuse, infidelity and minimum-wage work.

Much of the credit goes Sara Bareilles's music, which infuses a bouncy pop sound into the song-and-dance numbers. But every aspect of the production, from the minimalist, matte painting sets, to the efficient, complementary movements of the choreography and the 1950s-chic diner costumes is calibrated for maximum buoyancy.

The magnetic lead is Christine Dwyer, as the pregnant-and-trapped waitress Jenna. She belts out her songs with Bareilles-style fervor, effortlessly carrying the audience through her narrative, a succession of bad-to-worse choices.

She struggles with a loveless, abusive marriage to backwoods bumpkin Earl (Matt DeAngelis), and an ill-advised affair with her slick, yet subtly creepy gynecologist (Steven Good).

The beating heart of the production, Dwyer nails her solos, delivering show-stopping emotional moments.

Jeremy Morse steals the entire play as Ogie, the Irish step-dancing suitor who pursues Dawn (Jessie Shelton), and Maiesha McQueen rises to the occasion in her solo, belting out her songs with operatic resonance.

"Waitress," which was adapted from Adrienne Shelly's 1997 film starring Kerri Russell, not only pays homage to its source, as well as its Bareilles-influenced Broadway reinvention. A stark, gorgeous and invigorating production, it's something you need a fresh, hot slice of.

The Broadway in Tucson production of "Waitress" plays through Sunday at Centennial Hall. Purchase tickets here.

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