Waitress the musical is missing a few ingredients

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Waitress | Broadway Across Canada | Queen Elizabeth Theatre | November 12 – 17, 2019

Sugar, butter, flour: the words ring out in a beautiful harmony to start the show, setting the stage for a predictable romantic comedy infused with themes about the power of food to bring people together and make lasting connections. The impressive retro set of Joe’s Pie Diner (by Scott Pask) is where most of the action takes place as Jenna confronts big questions about life and love, all with a little help from her friends and co-workers, the nerdy Dawn (Gabriella Marzetta), bombastic Becky (Kennedy Salters), and serious Cal (Jake Mills).

One of the most amusing elements of this story is the creative pie names that Jenna (Bailey McCall) comes up with for her creations including Deep (Shit) Dish Blueberry, Mermaid Marshmallow, I Don’t Want Earl’s Baby, Betrayed by My Eggs, and Berry the Bullshit. Jenna uses baking as a form of therapy. Sometimes she rage bakes, sometimes her pies are infused with tears, and sometimes she bakes to make a point or find her way into someone’s heart. Whatever the occasion, she’ll come up with the perfect pie that tells a whole story with just one taste.

While Jenna’s pies may be perfection, her personal life is in crisis as she finds out she’s pregnant and digging herself deeper into an abusive relationship with Earl (Clayton Howe). She decides to save up some of her tip money to make it to a pie competition. If she wins, she plans to leave Earl for good. Meanwhile, she falls for Dr. Pomatter (David Socolar). Their relationship heats up despite him being married, and she cooks up an I Wanna Play Doctor with My Gynecologist pie.

Dawn and Becky provide plenty of hilarity as they navigate their own love lives, with Dawn trying out online dating for the first time. She ends up meeting the man of her nerdy dreams. Becky also finds love in an unexpected place.

Many of the songs have a country influence, and there are some standout numbers such as the heartfelt duets between Jenna and Dr. Pomatter, “It Only Takes a Taste” and “You Matter to Me” which were the highlight of the night. The show ends with the sweet “Everything Changes” about Jenna becoming a mother, leaving us on a hopeful note that we’re never trapped in our circumstances forever, and we have the power to write our own recipe.

Despite a creative team full of talented women and impressive performances from the entire cast, this predictable musical wasn’t my kind of pie. The story felt old-fashioned and conservative. There were many moments when the message didn’t seem to be hitting the mark, and the relationship between Jenna and her doctor placed her once again in a vulnerable position where she had no power. The story seemed to reinforce the idea that women have little power until a man comes into their life to save them or inspire them. Likewise, Dawn and Becky spend most of their time trying to find a love interest. I suppose what this show is missing is a dash of female empowerment and a deeper look at some of the underlying themes.

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