Reviewer: Kristine Gotham
Venue: Midland Center for the Arts
Midland Center For The Arts continued their 50th anniversary season with the Huntington Bank Broadway and Beyond Series performance of “Waitress”. This high energy and sassy musical stars Jisel Soleil Ayon as Jenna, a diner waitress who loves creating new pies to serve and longs for a life away from her domineering and abusive husband, Earl
Gabriella Marzetta and Dominique Kent, costar as Jenna’s friends and fellow waitresses, Dawn and Becky. Together the three women wait on regulars at the diner, complain about their boss, and wish the best for each other. The girls’ support is fully felt in the song, “The Negative”, where Jenna fears she is pregnant and the others are praying for a negative test result. Much to her dismay, Jenna is in fact pregnant. According to her OBGyn, Dr. Pomatter, Jenna is “very” pregnant, when she asks how pregnant she is.
Dr. Pomatter, while at first a very disconcerting person in Jenna’s life, becomes a friend and source of comfort over the course of her pregnancy. He understands that Jenna doesn’t want to celebrate being pregnant and learns that married life for her is less than blissful.
As the play and Jenna’s pregnancy progresses, we see into the lives of Dawn and Becky as well. Each of the girls are dealing with their own situations at home, Becky is married to a disabled man that she has to care for on a daily basis, while Becky is single, neurotic, and looking for the one who will love her for her. At the end of the day, each woman finds what she needs to feel more than “happy enough”.
Jenna has one chance to get out of her small town and away from Earl, a national pie baking contest in a neighboring town. She squirrels away money and her favorite diner customer, Joe, gives her a bundle of cash during a dance at Becky’s wedding. Jenna finally sees the possibility of a better life. She is going to enter the pie baking contest and when she wins she will finally have enough to get away from Earl for good. But, life has other plans. Earl finds the money that Jenna has been hiding and she lies and tells him that it is for the baby. Jenna finally decides that it isn’t about what she wants, it is about the baby, a baby that she didn’t want but one that is for sure coming soon.
The time comes for Jenna to give birth. Her friends are there to support her. She makes the life changing decision to leave Earl and to go it on her own, just her and her baby. But all of Jenna’s dreams are not forgotten. A surprise gift from her favorite customer sets her on a path of creating her own future, one pie at a time. Jenna will finally be happy, truly happy.
This production was professional from start to finish. The acting was superb. The actors were flawless in their lines and the personalities were so well rounded, the audience really felt each character’s emotion and personality. The musical numbers provided context to the story line as well as comedic elements at times. The musicians were completely in tune with each other. The costumes were just right and the lighting helped keep the audience focused on what was happening in the play.
Midland Center for the Arts is a beautiful space. The audience was treated to a great production with the promise of many more to come as the 50th anniversary season continues.