Now Reading: Why ‘Waitress’ Is One of the Most Important Shows on Broadway


Why ‘Waitress’ Is One of the Most Important Shows on Broadway

August 18, 20175 min read

WARNING: This article contains spoilers for the musical ‘Waitress’.

Waitress is a musical celebrating friendship and the joys of motherhood. It tells the story of Jenna Hunterson, a waitress at a local diner and pie-maker extraordinaire, as she copes with a pregnancy by an abusive husband and dreams of a new life with the new doctor in town as well as a local pie baking contest.

The show is based off a movie written by Adrienne Shelley, with music and lyrics by musician Sara Bareilles and a book by Jessie Nelson. It began previews on March 26, 2016 and officially opened on April 24 at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre

At the 2016 Tony Awards, Waitress was nominated for 4 awards, including Best Musical and Best Original Score.

Waitress is a story that has to be told. It shows the ins and outs of Jenna’s relationship with her abusive husband, Earl, and doesn’t romanticize it. It shows a woman — strong and guarded and on the verge of breaking into pieces — constantly picking herself up after an unwanted pregnancy and a dream that gets ripped out from under her.

Jenna’s pregnancy is something she loathes for most of the show — until she finally gives birth, and leaves her husband. Her newborn daughter is a beacon of hope.

The show also depicts the importance of friendship, with Jenna’s relationship with her fellow waitresses at the diner, Dawn and Becky, as well as the owner of the diner, Joe.

I’ve had the privilege of seeing the show three times, all with different women playing Jenna. Each time I’ve seen the show, I’ve just fallen more in love with it.

Jessie Mueller, who originated the role, was the first that I saw. Her portrayal of the waitress is probably my favorite. She plays the role with such bitterness and sarcasm dripping from her words. Her version of the part is one that is worn down but still remains standing tall, with a bittersweet attitude that advanced through her years in an unhappy relationship.

When Mueller left on March 26, 2017, a year after the show began playing previews, the show’s composer Sara Bareilles stepped into the role a few days later for a 10-week engagement. Bareilles was the next person I saw fulfill the role of Jenna, and her take on the waitress was sassier rather than sarcastic. Bareilles’s version was more quick-witted, with all-bark-and-some-bite. Where Mueller used sarcasm and bitterness, Bareilles used eye-rolls, crossed-arms, and a jutted-out hip.

The final and most recent woman I saw play Jenna was Betsy Wolfe. Wolfe stepped into the role on June 13, two days after Bareilles left. Wolfe is soft-spoken and innocent-looking, which translated into her portrayal of Jenna. She played Jenna with naivete and some sort of innocence, and her softness still retained strength.

The soundtrack for Waitress isn’t anything to skip over, either. “She Used to be Mine”, a ballad in Act II of the show, is one of the most powerful in the show. The song is sung by Jenna, and she sings in third-person as she reminisces all she’s lost of herself. It’s an anthem of longing and loss.

“What Baking Can Do” is a song with a deep meaning disguised by an upbeat tempo. It tells the story of how Jenna finds an escape in baking, which she learned from her mother who also was trapped in a loveless marriage.

“A Soft Place to Land” is sung by Jenna, Dawn, and Becky. It’s a slower song and an anthem of hope. All three waitresses sing of their better lives, which for the first time seem reachable.

The show is truly a feel-good musical, with its depictions of motherhood, friendship, and finding strength within yourself.

Tickets for the show can be bought on Ticketmaster. The show is going on tour starting this year, and for dates and tickets check out the musical’s website.

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Victoria Mione

Victoria is a seventeen-year-old from New Jersey who loves music, reading, and attending Broadway shows. She also enjoys going to concerts and educating herself on social justice issues. Writing is an outlet for her, and she hopes to use doing so to get her voice out. Follow her on Instagram at @victoriamione, and on Twitter at @victoriamione or @drrncrss

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