Sunday, October 2

Waitress – Edinburgh Playhouse

A story of baking, infidelity and finding love, waitress is a problematic musical surrounding a waitress who bakes pies to avoid talking about her feelings.

Jenna (played tonight by Aimee Fisher) is a waitress for a small diner who specializes in making the best pies in town whilst avoiding dealing with her unhappy marriage and overall feeling of failure for the life she believes her mother would have wanted her to live. When a pregnancy test proves positive, she is forced to reconsider her life choices as she begins an affair with her gynaecologist (played by Liam McHugh) and starts to save up money to enter a baking contest that could guarantee her enough money to leave her abusive husband Earl (Donal Brennan) for good. At the same time, we follow her co-workers Dawn (Evelyn Hoskins) and Becky (Wendy Mae Brown) as they follow their own problematic story lines involving more infidelity and dating a man with more red flags than a Spanish bull ring.

Whilst the above topics are dealt with humorously throughout there really are some powerful and touching moments. For example, the scenes between Jenna and Earl when they are alone are very uncomfortable to watch, whilst we do see Earl man handle Jenna from time to time the relationship appears to be more mentally abusive than physically, Fisher shivers and stiffens under Brennan’s touch and even when his words are kind Brennan remains slimy and hostile like a ticking delusional time bomb.

Fisher’s rendition of “She Used to Be Mine”, the song that made the show so famous, is an emotional roller coaster that had the audience roaring with applause.

The music overall is very catchy with “Never Getting Rid of Me” being very fun and upbeat and “Opening Up” should definitely be on all of our morning play lists however it doesn’t fit that of your typical musical: there are few group numbers and much less cheese. This is not a musical that would keep your children entertained and is definitely catered more towards a mature adult audience. 

Photo: Johan Persson

I think one of the reasons this show is so popular is because the characters are relatable, there’s nothing extraordinary about any of them, no hidden superpowers or motifs. Nothing happens in the plot that’s too far out of reach, just real characters dealing with real life situations, that being said morally there’s a lot of questionable attitudes to these characters. One clear example is that the show seems very pro cheating with four lead married characters engaging in infidelity without reaping any kind of negative consequence. At times it even feels like the writer Jessie Nelson is trying to justify cheating with the classic “what they don’t know won’t hurt them”, and “I love them but I have needs”.

Becky cheats on her husband with Cal justifying it as her husband is ill so she isn’t getting any elsewhere and Cal insisting his wife may be gay. Jenna cheats with Dr Pomatter (who is also married) instead of dealing with her marriage and even in the end when she ends the affair and her marriage, Dr Pomatter gets to walk away like nothing happened and return to his marriage blissfully. This is an area that I can assume would divide audiences, but it didn’t leave myself feeling particularly upbeat.

Overall, the musical is good but not mind blowing. There is very little rise and fall in the plot nor is there any real excitement or mystery for the audience to hang on. The characters and their situations are very realistic, and the show still makes for an interesting watch however it’s not your typical cheesy upbeat musical.

Waitress continues in Edinburgh until Saturday before continuing on tour,

Reviewer: Beth Eltringham

Reviewed: 19th April 2022

North West End UK Rating: ★★★