If the pies in Sweeney Todd, currently running in New York’s Barrow Street Theatre, are of a distinctly savory kind – in fact, unsavory might be a better adjective – then a trip to the Brooks Atkinson Theatre will offer theatre-goers the chance to taste a far sweeter kind or pastry encased treat.
For there, Sara Bareilles’ and Jessie Nelson’s adaptation of the 2007 successful rom-com, Waitress, is on show. And pies feature heavily. Not just in the way they are piled up on the sides of the stage, sold in the lobby or used to decorate the inventive set: even the safety curtain gets a pastry like aside. No, it is through the making up of increasingly bizarre and inventive pies that the musical’s central character, Jenna, learns to cope with the trials and tribulations of a distinctly turbulent life.
As Good As Mom’s Apple Pie
But back to the pies, because the often-repeated refrain around ingredients adds another reason for us never to forget that a pie is a tough crust encasing a flavorsome, delicate, light but vulnerable center. Mostly, the said pies audiences experience here have just the right amount of sugar to make them tasty but avoid them leaving an unpleasant after twang in the back of the throat. Occasionally, they are bittersweet, offering a disarming and pleasantly unexpected poignancy Just once or twice the ingredients don’t quite work and the taste causes the audience to swallow and reflect, before deciding – rather like herb-flavored ice cream – that a clever idea has not quite delivered. But for the overwhelming majority of the time, director Diane Paulus gets the combinations just right, and that makes for a highly entertaining evening. Adding to the final product, Lorin Latarro ensures that the choreography is timed to the microsecond and Scott Pask’s pie themed surprises on set provide a regular smile and package the production perfectly. A notable point, especially relevant with the current focus on women’s rights in the entertainment industry, is that Waitress represents the first all-female creative team to work together on a Broadway musical.
The production centers very much around Jenna, and a strong actress is needed to carry the part. The waitress has been blessed with a number of leads playing this role, and currently, the part is filled by Bareilles herself, which adds certain energy and confidence to the production. Other parts are complimentary ingredients, never designed to be the main flavor of the pie but nevertheless adding to the overall taste. A fine company contributes much to the final effect, and Natasha Yvette Williams’ fellow waitress, Becky, has a particularly full and powerful voice, which she uses to good effect to open the second half with a rendition of ‘I Didn’t Plan It’.
The story centers around Jenna’s wish to get out of an abusive relationship and find proper love. Along the way, she becomes involved in a baking contest which serves as a useful, if not terribly subtle, metaphor for her life as it currently stands.
Big, Tasty Ingredients
Although it tackles some big themes – an unhappy marriage, lost dreams and so forth, this is a production that never gets the audience down or allows them more than a moment’s introspection. Upbeat, tap along with songs, some very funny moments and those ubiquitous pies make sure of that. Let’s face it, nobody can become too serious when confronted with a cream filled pastry case.
And that makes a night or afternoon out to Waitress a very good way of spending some money and getting some entertainment. There is enough in the play to get the audience thinking, and plenty to get them laughing and smiling. On top of that, the music in this production is good enough to have seen it nominated for a music award before it even hit the boards – Bareilles really is a talented musician. The production was also nominated for a Tony in 2016 as Best Musical.
Getting There and Getting Tickets
The Brooks Atkinson Theatre is a charming location, boasting its own crust colored frontage. It is found on 256 West 47th Street. With just over a thousand seats it remains big enough for a large production such as Waitress, but not too large to make it impersonal. This means that from anywhere the sense that the performances are for you personally remains strong. Having said that, the front of the Mezzanine and center of the Orchestra Stalls offer the best seats.
Prices start from $79 for the back of the Mezzanine from Ticketmaster. They rise through a number of prices to $159 for good seats in the Orchestra stalls. Seats are also available from SeatGeek. Here, prices start from $94 for some performances, with prices rising through to approaching $400 for good seats at the most in-demand performance times. StubHub offers tickets in a tighter price band, with some seats at just $80 for a Saturday matinee. Prices rise to from $163 for the most popular and heavily sold shows.
Waitress is showing on Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday at 7.00pm. Friday and Saturday at 8.00pm. Matinees happen on Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday at 2.00pm.
There is nothing like a good, sweet and comforting dessert to finish a good meal, and Waitress offers that in bucket loads. Get a ticket and give yourself a treat.