Students at Montclair State went to see “Waitress,” the first show on Broadway to feature an all-female creative team.
The Center for Student Involvement organized a group trip to see the musical which shines a light on female empowerment on April 5. The show is based on the movie of the same name starring Keri Russell released in 2007 and is currently in previews on Broadway.
The story follows Jenna, played by Tony-winner Jessie Mueller, a waitress and pie maker at Joe’s Diner who doesn’t have the courage to leave her loveless and borderline abusive marriage. When Jenna finds out she’s pregnant, she dreams of a way to leave town and her husband to make a better life for her and her child.
Walking into the theatre, the curtain is draped across the stage and designed to look like the latticed top of a pie. There are also clear pie display cases that line each side and go all the way up to the top of the curtain. These cases are completely functional, as we see Mueller throughout the replace the pies inside.
Additionally, instead of being offered the regular theatre concessions, ushers walked up and down the aisles offering fresh baked pies of many different flavors to patrons. It was a nice twist that worked well with the theme of the musical.
Maria Brucato, a junior psychology major, was astounded from the beginning by the sets which she said were very impressive and immediately set the mood for the show. All the transitions of set pieces were seamless, including the ones not managed by a control panel and moved by actors on stage like the rolling wire racks.
Something must also be said about the lighting, which was featured in creative ways other than spotlights. While Jenna is sitting at a bus stop, the arrival of the bus is signaled by having yellow lights slowly spread across the stage.
At Jenna’s house, the lighting mimics the look of light streaming through closed blinds which you can see covering the walls of the living room. These were slight accents of light that allowed the simple flow from scene to scene.
The comedy was expertly pulled off due to the combination of excellent writing by the book writer Jessie Nelson and talented actors who could see the vision by just looking at words on a page and taking direction. Every actor on the stage had excellent comedic timing which is needed with a show like “Waitress” that had so many brilliant comedic moments and songs. It was clear from the very first number of the show that it would be one full of sentiment and laughs.
The song, “The Negative” in Act I is the moment where Jenna, accompanied by her two friends Dawn and Becky who are waitresses at the diner, takes a pregnancy test. The three women have beautiful chemistry both on stage and in the effortless harmonies they sing together.
“I thought the music was awesome,” said Brucato. “You could see people in the background…the piano is seen onstage.” The band is visible through most of the show. the waitresses at the diner even used the top of the piano to display new pies in between lines of dialogue.
Sara Bareilles’ music is lovely and well written with lyrics that make you feel. Throughout the emotional rollercoaster of this show, you find lyrics in the music that capture your attention and give you chills.
Jenna’s song, “She Used to Be Mine,” revolves around her stating how she doesn’t recognize herself and her life has been controlled by so many people that she doesn’t know who she is anymore. Mueller’s raw performance, like her Tony Award performance in the title role of “Beautiful,” is nothing short of stunning.
Waitress started previews at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre and is set to open officially on April 24.