It’s a good job I didn’t watch Waitress on an empty stomach; I would have been tempted to storm the stage to eat the props – the props being delicious-looking pies.
Real or imitation, I don’t know, but by the yummy looks of them I wouldn’t have cared.
The dreamy confections took centre stage at the Hull New Theatre on Monday evening, as the pie-themed musical disarmed the tastebuds of everyone in the packed auditorium.
Most of the action takes place in Joe’s Pie Diner, a popular eatery in small-town Indiana, America.
A staff of four – three waitresses, Jenna (Chelsea Halfpenny), Dawn (Evelyn Hoskins) and Becky (Sandra Marvin), and chef and manager Cal (Christopher D Hunt) – keep the diner ticking over nicely.
Jenna is the expert pie-maker. Married to the controlling and selfish Earl (Tamlyn Henderson), she dreams, not just of creating an award-winning pie, but also of having some happiness in her life.
Finding herself unhappily pregnant, Jenna is attracted to the dishy doctor who has replaced her usual, retired, doctor.
The attraction is mutual and instant, and Dr Pomatter (Matt Jay-Willis) turns into a shy, love-struck teenager in Jenna’s company.
As things progress, Jenna ensures her married lover has a new pie at each of her consultations, and the scene with the pineapple upside-down cake had us all laughing out loud.
This being a musical, there were songs aplenty, all sung in loud, crystal-clear and tuneful voices. Sometimes the singing was a wee bit too loud for me to distinguish certain words, but I’m sure my ears were to blame, although my theatre-buddy sister, Christine, agreed with me, when we discussed the show during the interval.
A really nice touch, musically, was the way members of The Waitress Band almost mystically appeared on the stage throughout, their arrival never detracting from any action taking place at the time.
I found the first half dragging somewhat, until the irrepressible Ogie (George Crawford), burst on to the stage. Comically wooing waitress, Dawn, his antics made me look forward to the second half.
And what a second half! It was definitely worth the wait; so much happened at such a pace – and, yes, Ogie was back big-time!
Laugh-a-minute scenes abounded – especially when the three waitresses and their lovers (Becky’s is especially shattered, but I won’t reveal his identity here), were “bonking”.
It’s not all fun and games, though. There are serious, poignant and anger-making moments and not everyone has a happy ending.
However, it’s an especially happy ending for our heroine, Jenna, who gives birth to a baby girl, Lulu (the cute Eliza Munyard), and receives a life-changing present from diner owner Joe (Michael Starke).
Though not one of my favourite musicals, I couldn’t fault the acting, singing (despite the afore-mentioned loudness), choreography and music; plus, the amazing stage setting, which changed seamlessly before our very eyes.
At 2 hours 15 minutes long, though, I felt this pie was slightly overcooked. But the standing ovation proved it was still a recipe for theatregoers to feast upon.
Running until Saturday, February 5th, 2022, 7.30pm nightly with 2.30pm matinees on Thursday, February 3rd and Saturday, February 5th. Tickets from £20. Call (01482) 300306 or visit www.hulltheatres.co.uk
Age guidance: 13+
Reviewer: Jackie Foottit
Reviewed: 31st January 2022
North West End UK Rating: ★★★