Review by Liz Eichler of WAITRESS: Cincinnati Broadway Series
In this January weather, go see WAITRESS, the musical now playing at the Aronoff, through January 21, not because it provides hummable tunes stuck in your head, but it provides memorable warmth stuck in your heart.
WAITRESS is the story of Jenna, a woman whoâ€™s had some hard knocks and made some questionable choices as sheâ€™s carving her path in the world, however, the one thing she does best–making pies–launches her from a dependent life, to one where she is in control of her own success and happiness. Caught in a loveless marriage and knocked up, she discovers a mutual attraction with her gynecologist! Bryan Fenkart, as Dr. Pomatter, the gynecologist Jenna falls for, is charmingly nerdy and Nick Bailey as Earl, her difficult husband, has a great rock and roll voice.
This is an empowering modern piece with modern complications. Written by Jessie Nelson, with music and lyrics by Sara Bareilles, it was inspired by a motion picture of the same name. The arrangements have a country feel, and they are varied and pleasant, but the focus is on feeling. The second act is stronger than the first: the first act introduces you to the â€œingredientsâ€ of the musical, but the second act allows it to bake, and become warm and bubbly.
On opening night the audience loved â€œNever Ever Getting Rid of Meâ€ featuring the well-received Ogie (Jeremy Morse) and â€œShe Used to Be Mineâ€ where Jenna (Desi Oakley) sings from her heart and soul in a truly memorable number.
There appears to be a full range of understudies in the large ensemble. Audience favorites are Ryan Dunkirk as Cal, the diner chef; Lenne Klingaman as Dawn, Jennaâ€™s nerdy friend; Charity Angel Dawson as Becky, Jennaâ€™s sassy friend; Larry Marshall as Joe, the elderly diner owner; and Maeisha McQueen as the nurse with attitude.
The backdrop and scenery (Scott Pask) are lovely, but the pie props are magnificent. Make sure you plan time for a slice afterwards at your local diner.