Tristan Johnson, Archivist
From March 26 to April 7, The Fabulous Fox Theatre hosted the delightfully delicious company of “Waitress.”
The show stars Christine Dwyer as the all-encompassing Jenna, Maiesha McQueen as the sassy Becky, and the quirky Ephie Aardema as Dawn. The musical makes history as being the first Broadway show to have an all-female creative team.
The story of the show follows Jenna, a down-on-her-luck waitress who aspires for so much more than she has, is a waitress that is in charge of creating unique pie flavors at the local restaurant in town. She is in a relationship with a man who both mentally and physically abuses her. She becomes pregnant with his child and immediately hates the child from the very beginning. During a pregnancy checkup, Jenna falls in love with the new doctor in town that treats her with respect and love.
Dwyer was the perfect choice to lead this show, but that is expected. Previously seen on the Fabulous Fox stage in “Wicked” and “Finding Neverland,” she effortlessly takes on the leading role and commands the stage with her presence. She takes the audience on an emotional arc. The audience feels bad when misfortunes come her way and applaud her when successes are dealt out before her.
Erin Karll, a contributing critic for On Stage blog, sums up the entire show perfectly, “A few dashes of ‘girl power’ and sprinkling of charm, baked in radio-ready tunes is what you will see with ‘Waitress’ onstage at the Fabulous Fox Theatre.”
While the show does have a central theme that displays the powers of female friendship, there are certain details that do not qualify itself as being an overtly-feminist show. Aja Romano, an internet culture reporter for Vox, states that “‘Waitress’ suffers tremendously from not being straightforward about the reality of Jenna’s home environment.” The creative team of “Waitress” had an opportunity to display the stresses and pains of domestic violence, but they skipped around it. The show would have been better as a whole if they had just spent a little more time on this important issue that so many people are dealing with. They inserted comedic parts around Jenna being almost beaten by her husband to take away attention from the events that they were foreshadowing.
Romano further goes on to point out another moment in the musical where the creative team failed in letting a woman be the hero of her own story. In reference to the character of Dawn, Roman explains that “the character goes on an OkCupid date with a man named Ogie, who then turns up the next day at her job, refusing to leave and declaring his intent to love her forever in a number called ‘Never Ever Getting Rid of Me.’” In one of the most comedic and standout moments from the show, Jeremy Morse’s portrayal of Ogie truly steals the spotlight. With that in mind, it is important to realize the character did indeed stalk a love interest that was originally not interested in him. The audience perceives this as a wonderful conclusion to a confusing love story, but what exactly is the audience applauding?
If one is not overly analytical of the failed attempts at creating a powerful show that celebrates women, the show is genuinely fun. The audience filled the Fox Theatre with laughter countless times and tears were shed during the emotional aspects. “Waitress” was a great choice to add to the Fox’s 2018-19 season lineup and was a true joy to see!