Theatre Review: ‘Waitress’

Each number is better than the next and really, the songs by Sara Barielles are the true star of the show.

Photo: Joan Marcus

One of the joys of Waitress, now playing at the Civic Theatre, are the Tony-nominated songs by Sara Bareilles. From the opening number, ‘What’s Inside’, to the incredibly beautiful ‘She Used to Be Mine’, each number is better than the next and is really the true star of the show. That’s not to take away from the terrific cast though, they just make the show that much better.

Christine Dwyer plays Jenna, a waitress and pie maker at small mid-west diner. She’s in a terrible marriage with a world-class jerk, Earl (Matt DeAngelis, who nails the role) and worst of all, she just found out that she’s pregnant with his baby. When the owner of the diner, Joe (played with both fun and crabbiness by Larry Marshall), tells Jenna about an upcoming pie-making contest with a big cash prize, she starts to believe she’s finally found a way out. On top of that, she starts relationship with her married obstetrician, Dr. Pomatter (a charming Steven Good).

Thankfully, Jenna’s got a good group she can fall back on, fellow waitresses Becky (a hilarious Maiesha McQueen), Dawn (a perfectly cast Jessie Shelton) and cook, Cal (a wonderfully cranky Ryan G. Dunkin). They bicker with each other and laugh together but through it all, have each others backs.

There are a few scenes in the first act that feel a bit slow, but things immediately pick back up when the musical numbers begin, thanks to Bareilles and choreographer Lorin Latarro. Act 2, though, is pure payoff. You’re sure to have all all the feels by the end.

Dwyer is terrific as Jenna. She’ll make you laugh one minute and well up with tears the next. And she’s got a voice that can rival Jessie Mueller, Broadway’s original Jenna.

It’s Jeremy Morse though, that’s the true scene stealer. He plays Ogie, Dawn’s boyfriend and from the moment he appears, you can almost see the entire cast back up a few feet to get out of the way of his whirlwind performance. He’s incredibly funny in every way and his number, ‘Never Ever Getting Rid of Me’, is a show stopper.

And a special shout out to San Diego’s own Kensley Dibble, who plays Jenna’s daughter, Lulu (Sloane Viora shares the role with her), at the end of the show. She actually gave Morse a run for his money as a scene stealer.

Waitress is playing at the San Diego Civic Theatre through Sunday. For more info: Broadway San Diego

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