Musical theatre has made its name worldwide for being a delight on the eyes and a treat for the ears, but it’s not often that your nose gets a look in, so to speak. Not so at the Adelphi Theatre. Long before the curtain rises, you have a foyer that’s filled with wafts of banoffee and apple crumble at every turn. This smell is no fake. The concession stand can serve you a piece of pie with your drinks, and is just one of the ways they go all in with the sweet treat.
Why do you ask? Well the clue may have been in the posters dotted all about town. Katharine McPhee, who burst into stardom as an American Idol runner up in 2006 and has been a mainstay of sound and screen ever since, beckons Tube dwellers to the theatre with the promise of pie and the Adelphi delivers in just about every possible way.
The play, based upon the 2007 film, revolves around Jenna, a small-town waitress in a small-town diner. A pro with pastry, she spends her days crafting pies for her customers, all based around moments of her past and present. Dreaming of another life away from her abusive husband, her life is turned upside down when she not only finds out she’s pregnant, but she’s introduced to her bumbling yet rather charming new doctor. As you can imagine sparks begin to immediately fly over a slice or two and a song or three.
Waitress is exactly what you would expect about a musical based around pies would be. It’s sweet, filling yet makes you want oh so much more of it. It’s wickedly funny, with a scrumptious soundtrack of would-be classics written by Grammy-nominated Sara Bareilles. It’s played to perfection by a stellar cast, led by McPhee who gained so many plaudits for the same role on Broadway she has transferred over with the production.
It’s a musical dominated by its trio of waitresses. Jenna is joined by Becky and Dawn, all three joined at the hip during shifts, offering a delectable chorus of harmonies and a bucket full of camaraderie. Each has their own trials and tribulations around life and love, and get their time to shine on the other side of the counter with a powerhouse solo or two.
David Hunter as Dr. Pomatter plays a wonderfully comic foil. His scatterbrain approach plays to the character perfectly, jumbling words with a delectable rhythm and pacing the stage with the physical energy of a clown with a doctorate.
Hunter would be a bona-fide scene-stealer were it not for Jack McBrayer. In his West End debut, the star you may know as Kenneth from 30 Rock or Felix from Wreck-It Ralph, wows as the loveable (if slightly strange) Ogie, who becomes besotted with Dawn. Though not the strongest singer on staff, his years of Hollywood tomfoolery sees him own a number of set pieces with comic perfection, providing perhaps the highlight of the show with his introduction.
It’s McPhee that takes the real star turn, however. It’s not always easy for a pop star to transplant their talents to the stage, but the singer’s wondrous voice is at home here as it is on record. In a role that stretches her vocal range from pillar to post, you would never think of Waitress as her first theatrical role.
All this comes together to make a fresh out of the oven classic. Waitress is a taste to savour, so make sure you get your piece.
Waitress will be showcasing at London's Adelphi Theatre until Saturday 19th October.
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