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In short order, ‘Waitress’ works out in the end

In short order, ‘Waitress’ works out in the end

Christine Dwyer leads talented cast in clever dialogue, song
In short order, ‘Waitress’ works out in the end
Steven Good and Christine Dwyer in the touring musical "Waitress."
Photographer: Philicia Endelman

As Tuesday’s performance of “Waitress” hit the 2:15 mark, I started fretting about when it was really going to be over because of all the loose ends that had to be tied up.

But I shouldn’t have worried because musical theater is make-believe, and one song, one lighting change, or one carefully placed line of dialogue can address those concerns.

And that’s what happened. In make-believe short order, Jenna (Christine Dwyer) had the baby; threw the bum, Earl (Jeremy Woodard) out; nixed the affair with Dr. Pommater (Steven Good); and inherited a restaurant from her old friend Joe (Richard Kline).

Thus, for me the whole evening turned out to be a series of satisfying set pieces, clever numbers that were thoroughly enjoyable in the moment (and superbly performed), so the mad scramble to finish off the story merely left me scratching my head.

The plot focuses on Jenna, a baker/waitress in a pie diner, who was raised in an abusive household and unfortunately is repeating her mother’s history. Jenna is great at creating sweet confections but poor at making anything tasty of her own life. 

An unwanted pregnancy leads her to the new gynecologist in town, with whom she begins an affair. Why not? Her two waitress pals, ditzy Dawn (Ephie Aardema) and wisecracking Becky (Melody A. Betts) have suddenly found loves of their own, the latter with cook Cal (Ryan G. Dunkin), and the former with Ogie (Jeremy Morse, in a hysterical, show-stopping Act I number that channels Paul Lynde, Leslie Jordan, and Molly Shannon all at once: remarkable!).

But this is Jenna’s story, so the course of true love will never run smooth — until that hurry-up ending.

Adapted from the 2006 movie by Adrienne Shelly, this 2015 musical, with book by Jessie Nelson and music and lyrics by Sara Bareilles, has a lot going for it. The songs are fresh and pleasingly pop, and brilliantly backed by an onstage band conducted by Lilli Wosk.

Scott Pask’s set pieces glide on and off in a trice, and the rear wall projection of receding telephone poles in a vast landscape aptly suggest the small-town life its inhabitants sometimes yearn to leave.

Director Diane Paulus and choreographer Lorin Latarro punctuate every number with inventive dancing and gesturing, beautiful accents to the song’s message.

The performers on this tour stop are terrific. Aardema and Betts score in “When He Sees Me” and “I Didn’t Plan It,” respectively. Good is a fine physical comedian and singer, duetting delightfully with Dwyer in “It Only Takes a Taste” and “Bad Idea.” Kline’s “Take It from an Old Man” is properly touching. Dunkin gets laughs without saying anything, and Woodard rightly gets boos at his curtain call for his malevolent Earl. A nod, too, to Rheaume Crenshaw as Nurse Norma — you’ll see why.

Dwyer holds the whole show together, and when she sang the fierce anthem “She Used to Be Mine” on Tuesday, the house gave her her props with sustained applause and cheering.

Fretting aside, I enjoyed myself.


WHERE: Proctors, 432 State St.
WHEN:  through June 16
HOW MUCH:  $105-$25
MORE INFO:  518.346.6204, or proctors.org

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