♪ Sugar, Butter, Flour ♫
It’s been quite a while since I’ve treated myself or have been treated to a show on Broadway. And for people who know me, they know: I LOVE a good Broadway play/musical, especially since I’m an actor and theatre kid!
So, when my awesome friend & fellow theatre kid Nora was coming to visit NYC with her mom, and we both talked about how we wanted to see Waitress: The Musical with Jenna Ushkowitz from GLEE (which we were obsessed with during its run like everyone else) standing in for the role of Dawn, we knew what we had to do:
I REALLY wanted to see it. I’ve been wanting to since it first came to Broadway for previews, but I never had the time or the funds to really go. Then, Nora & her awesome mom, Laurie (aka Mama Hen! <3) graciously treated me to the musical I’ve been waiting to see forever. They are amazing, and I’m forever grateful for them giving me the chance to experience it and to see it with them especially. ❤
In this incredible new musical based off the 2007 film of the same name–now with the incredible composition & lyrics by Grammy winning singer/songwriter Sara Bareilles (one of my FAVORITE artists, who happens to share my name and spelled the right way, hehe), book by Jessie Nelson and an all-female creative team (<3)–we follow the story of Jenna Hunterson. Played by the phenomenal Tony Award-winning Jessie Mueller, Jenna is a pie-making artist stuck in a small Southern town and a loveless marriage with her high school beau, Earl. When she unexpectedly gets pregnant after a drunk night in “that stupid red dress” with her husband, she feels this could be the end of her dream to start over and begin a new life. That is, until her new doctor, Dr. Jim Pomatter (played by the adorable, very talented, very attractive Drew Gehling) sparks both her confidence & a fire in her heart she’s never felt before. And, with a pie-making contest in the nearby town offering a huge cash prize, Jenna’s dreams of beginning anew suddenly seem reachable. With the love of her friends & co-waitresses at Joe’s Pie Diner, and her magic touch with a little sugar, butter and flour, Jenna might just get the life she’s always wished for.
The moment you walk into the Brooks Atkinson Theater lobby, the intoxicating smell of fresh-baked pie hit you, and it’s heavenly. You get the feeling you’re in the diner with adorable, handwritten waiter’s order tickets and the calming sky blue walls feel like you’re in a dream…a beautiful, pie-filled dream. Walk into the theater and ushers in waitress outfits & cute Waitress aprons (which I wish they sold!) held trays full of little homemade pies in mason jars to purchase. Key Lime, Cookies & Creme, or Apple were the flavors served, and of course we bought some! AND IT WAS DELICIOUS. (I literally didn’t even care if they were $10 a piece; they were not only tasty, but the adorable jar is a keepsake that I now use to keep my favorite jewelry in!)
The lattice-pie-designed curtains rise as we take our seats, and my heart was racing. I couldn’t be more excited that this was how I was spending my Friday night. I could see Jessie Mueller through the curtains and she was hit with a single spotlight, and Sara Bareilles’ voice singing “Sugar, butter, flour” was playing as the opening number began. And then BAM! The musical began unfolding as the diner was “opening up”!
When Dr. Pomatter made his entrance, I automatically fell in love. His incredibly awkward charm was too adorable, and I couldn’t help but giggle. His interactions with Jenna were so adorable and awkwardly romantic, and it reminded me that A) that’s the type of man I want to fall in love with (adorkable, sweet, funny <3), and B) that if the two could fall in love through such awkward interactions, so could I (especially since that’s usually how I am around guys I like LOL). Drew Gehling is literally the only person who could pull off the character of Dr. Jim Pomatter. His comedic timing, his vocal range and harmonies (which is just gorgeous), and his sweet, charming charisma are exactly what this show needs.
I loved the friendship dynamic & complementary/contrasting personalities of Jenna and her best friends & co-waitresses, Dawn & Becky. Keala Settle (Becky) gave me goosebumps all over my body with her rendition of “I Didn’t Plan It,” and I haven’t had a song give me that reaction in forever, and I wish I could’ve told her at stage door if she had come that night! Just phenomenal with her comedic execution as well! And Jenna Ushkowitz totally killed the role of Dawn! It was awesome to see her perform live and to hear that her voice was just as spectacular (if not better) than when she performed on Glee. Plus, the first and only songs I had ever listened to from the musical were “When He Sees Me” and “Everything Changes” from Sara Bareilles’ concept album of her singing all the songs. So, when I heard Dawn (Ushkowitz)–the awkwardly shy yet adorable Asian waitress who had never had a boyfriend before–sing one of my favorite songs of “When He Sees Me” (which is about being afraid of when the man she hopes to marry sees her and being afraid to open up her heart to anyone, but still wanting to find true love), I almost screamed from sheer joy. But I had to contain myself, so instead I just smiled and bounced in my seat as I sang along with the song. I couldn’t be more happy that they wrote a character I could identify so incredibly strongly with, but even more so that they cast an Asian-American actress in the role! Even when Kimiko Glenn (the original Dawn on Broadway) took a leave of absence to finish filming Orange is the New Black, the cast Jenna Ushkowitz, and it made me smile. It was phenomenal for me to see Broadway take such great strides in Diversity in their casting. It made me see myself in that role, and I’m sure a lot of young girls and fellow Asian-American actresses/singers felt similarly. So thank you, creative team of Waitress. You are beautiful women for doing so.
The character of Olgie, who courts Dawn, was So. Freakin’. HILARIOUS. We saw his understudy, Jeremy Morse, who actually originated the production’s role in the workshops in Boston. His physical comedy was amazing, and he was quirky and so lively. He may have been a supporting character, but gosh he was probably one of my favorites of the entire show. Plus, Jeremy is a fellow NYU alum, and he actually studied as a student of Nora & Laurie’s friend, and it was so cool to meet him after the show! Total sweetheart, just like his character. We were very lucky to see Jeremy reprise the role!
Jessie Mueller. Just…wow. WOW. Her VOICE. Wow. Her range, her belt, her vibrato. I can’t tell you how much I admire her as a singer. She was so unbelievable, and her harmony & duets with Drew as Jenna & Dr. Pomatter in “Bad Idea” and “You Matter to Me” were just mezmorizing. And when she sang “She Used to Be Mine”? She blew the entire audience away. We must’ve applauded for 2 minutes after she finished, because it was just incredible. Her portrayal of Jenna was sincere, loving, heartbreaking, and honest. I couldn’t believe that she does this every night, but I see why Sara Bareilles and the creative team chose her. There aren’t enough words to describe the phenomenon that she is.
Like I said, I squealed when I heard Dawn sing “When He Sees Me” and sang with it, because that song is basically the anthem to my love life. Everytime the girls sang together–such as for “Opening Up”, “The Negative”, or “A Soft Place to Land”–I couldn’t help but smile because of their beautiful 3-part harmony and the beautiful friendship that shone through each song. “Bad Idea” was not only bada** rockin’, but so romantically tense and phenomenal. The chemestry between Jenna and Dr. Pomatter was amazing, and a GREAT end to the first act of the musical. One of my new favorite songs of the musical (and possibly ever) would have to be “You Matter to Me” between Dr. Jim Pomatter and Jenna. The sweet intimacy and genuine love and care they show towards each other is so sincere. The song made me shed a few tears while smiling, because the lyrics really hit me hard. I felt it with all my heart, because I hope to find someone one who tells me that I matter to them as they look at me as lovingly as the way Jim does to Jenna, and I to them. And of course, Jessie Mueller slayed “She Used to Be Mine,” and “Everything Changes” made me cry because after simply hearing it on Sara Bareilles’ concept album I already loved it. Now seeing it with the entire story in affect, it was beyond magnificent.
The entire musical exceeded every expectation I had for it, and believe me when I say that my expectations for it were high. It was worth the wait to see such a dazzling cast with a grandiose composition and band, and heartfelt story with outstanding comedic moments. When I build up my bank a little more, I’m 100% seeing it again, and definitely purchasing more things from their souvenir shop (I now know, I need the poster for this musical). This musical is definitely worth seeing, and there isn’t a bad seat in the house. I can’t wait to return to the Brooks Atkinson Theater with my friends to have them experience it with me, and maybe another little pie while I’m at it? I tried the cookies & creme and it was BOMB (the good kind), so maybe apple next time? 🙂 Plus, I heard a rumor that Sara Bareilles bakes the pies for every show. So yeah, I’m definitely buying another pie! (Or two…or three.)
Thank you to Nora and Mama Hen for this deliciously delightful Friday night treat. Thank you to Sara Bareilles, Jessie Nelson, and the gorgeously talented [all-female] creative team for creating a masterpiece that Broadway needs. Thank you to the beautifully hilarious cast for giving a performance I will never forget (you deserved every second of that standing ovation at the end. Totally worth standing forever for because y’all deserved it). ❤
Till next time, Broadway. I’ll be listening to the Broadway cast album on repeat until my next Playbill Diary entry (not like I haven’t already been doing that since I saw the show…hehe♡). Can’t wait!