Sunday night: “Waitress,” based on Adrienne Shelley’s hit movie starring Keri Russell, opened on Broadway. Sara Bareilles wrote the songs. Jessie Mueller, from Carole King’s “Beautiful,” and Nick Cordero, from “Bullets Over Broadway,” star along with Keala Settle, Christopher Fitzgerald, along with Dakin Matthews, Kimiki Glen and Drew Gehling. Diane Paulus, of “Pippin” and “Finding Neverland,” directed.
In the audience last night: Larry David (a welcome surprise), Tony Danza, and Gloria and Emilion Estefan, among others. Tyson Foods catered the dinner at the Bryant Park Grill, including many mouth-watering pies to go along with the musical’s theme.
Mueller, always a knockout, plays Jenna, the diner waitress who obsessively bakes complicated pies, is an abusive marriage, and has an affair with her OB-GYN. Most of the songs are about pies. and baking them as a metaphor. Mueller and Glen seem to be singing a la Dolly Parton, very nasal and country. Sometimes I found that annoying.
Christopher Fitzgerald, who’s like a secret weapon in every show he does, will get a Tony nomination for a minor character role that brings life and light to the whole first act. They should expand his role, frankly.
Much of the book was a mystery to me. Some scenes have no ending or pay off. Some of the material repurposed from the movie doesn’t work on stage. There’s talk through the two plus hours of a baking contest Jenna wants to be in, but they never have it.
There will be marketing that this a musical about women’s empowerment, I guess. But many of the characters (Jenna’s no good husband, the doctor’s black Mammy-type nurse) are ridiculous stock characters who undermine the main story. Still, Bareilles has her fans, so does Mueller, and the fake smell of pies baking that’s piped into the theater at the end of Act 1 will make you yearn for what the show itself is lacking.
There are three more openings this week before Tony eligibility closes. The big question mark is “Shuffle Along,” which is set for Thursday if it actually happens. (I’ve heard rumors, but the show must open one way or another.) Also coming: “Tuck Everlasting” and “Long Day’s Journey Into Night.”
It wasn’t a great season, and “Hamilton” loomed like a cloud over everything musical. Casts were large, which was good, and means a lot of competition in various Tony categories.