“Sugar..…Butter..…Flour…” The words sung like a beautiful lullaby periodically throughout the musical Waitress, which makes its Buffalo debut by the National Touring Production at Shea’s Buffalo Theater.
Brought to life by a groundbreaking all-female creative team, this irresistible new hit features original music and lyrics by six-time Grammy nominee Sara Bareilles, a book by acclaimed screenwriter Jessie Nelson and direction by Tony Award winner Diane Paulus. Inspired by Adrienne Shelly’s beloved film, Waitress tells the story of Jenna, a waitress and expert pie maker who dreams of a way out of her small town and loveless marriage. A baking contest in a nearby county and the town’s new doctor may offer her a chance at a fresh start, while her fellow waitresses offer their own recipes for happiness. But Jenna must summon the strength and courage to rebuild her own life.
The story starts with Jenna (Desi Oakley) facing a life crisis, discovering she’s pregnant and she doesn’t greet the news with traditional excitement. This is primarily because her husband, Earl (Nick Bailey), is aggressive and snatches Jenna’s tips as soon as she gets off work, making her feel she hasn’t brought home enough. Bailey plays this villain role so well, that the audience boos him during his bows (the sign of a great villain actor). Jenna tries keeping the news of her pregnancy from Earl, hoping she can find some way to escape from her marriage and produce a new life for herself and her child.
Desi Oakley, who plays Jenna, has one of the most important ingredients any show would benefit from—a rich, dynamic and luminous voice with the ability to connect with this Buffalo audience on so many levels.
Jenna meets her handsome gynecologist Dr. Pomatter (Bryan Fenkart) for the first time and realizes that after just a few visits that he is everything that Earl is not—funny, accomplished and understanding. This leads to a passionate affair they impulsively begins. Fenkart plays this role with charm and a personality that this opening night audience falls in love with.
Apprehensive about this new relationship —Jenna draws support from her fellow waitresses in the diner: the awkward, geeky Dawn (Lenne Klingaman) and the sassy, jazzy Becky (Charity Angél Dawson). Both Dawson and Klingaman are equally brilliant in their roles. They, along with Desi Oakley, create beautiful harmonies that give these Shea’s-goers goose-bumps at times. Both Becky and Dawn have unique, fun and amusing relationships of their own that entertain the audience throughout the night.
Dawn meets the wild and wacky Ogie (Jeremy Morse) online and after their “five-minute date” he vows ever-lasting devotion to Dawn in the musical high-light “Never Ever Getting Rid Of Me”. I can’t say enough about Morse’s performance. One word—brilliant!!! He’s a very talented character actor who has impeccable timing, delivery and stage ability. He’s the kind of performer I yearn to be someday!
As for Becky, her marriage is not fulfilling and she finds a relationship with diner manager Cal (Ryan Dunkin). Their relationship dynamics are fun and playful and many times humorous. Dunkin is convincing and powerful as Cal.
Jenna plans on escaping her relationship with Earl by entering a local baking contest that would bring her a $20,000 windfall should she win. Giving her encouragement with this plan is the diner’s owner, Joe (Larry Marshall).
But it is when Desi Oakley breaks into the musical number, “She Used to Be Mine,” that her talents shine. There are many that can relate to the emotional lyrics of this song and the complexities within all of us. Oakley’s electrifying performance of this song was meaningful and beautiful—one to remember! It was at this time when this musical comedy rises to higher levels.
At the very end of the show, we get to meet Jenna’s daughter Lulu played by Buffalo’s own Sophia Vandettee and Isabella Maritato who will be alternating the role while Waitress is here. Both were selected among more than 40 local girls at an audition last month at Shea’s. As the show tours the nation, the character Lulu is cast locally in each market it is performed.
Waitress plays at Shea’s Buffalo Theatre through February 11th with matinee performances over this coming weekend.
Buy tickets HERE.
Box Office Phone Line: 1-800-745-3000.
Tickets are $33 to $77.
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