One of the most deserved standing ovations I’ve ever seen; Waitress at Birmingham Hippodrome is pure delight. With four Tony’s and a Grammy nomination already under its belt, it’s easy to see why it has become the must-see show of recent years.
Of all the musicals I’ve seen, few come close to the absolute joy that is Waitress. Brought to life by a show-stopping design team, and pioneered by an irresistibly dynamic cast, it is truly a recipe for success. For the two hours and 15 minutes that make up this production, it is nothing but one outrageously funny moment after another that have the whole audience in hysterics.
While Waitress is wonderfully humorous – helped by the incredible comedic timing of the actors – it dramatises the painful story of a woman trapped in an abusive marriage. Based on the movie written by the talented Adrienne Shelly, the musical follows Jenna (ground-breaking Chelsea Halfpenny), an exceptional pie-making waitress, who works at Joe’s Pies Dinner in small-town Indiana. With the support of her fellow workmates, Becky (played by the fantastically witty Wendy Mae Brown) and Dawn (depicted by the perfectly animated Evelyn Hoskins), we see Jenna’s character develop into a strong-willed powerhouse. Now doesn’t that sound like the perfect ingredients for an award-winning musical!
Despite the trials and tribulations that occur along the way, Jenna is a compellingly charismatic protagonist you’ll want to root for. I couldn’t have asked for a more magnetic actor to bring her to life; Chelsea Halfpenny takes on the role with absolute velocity, calibrating an emotionally raw character that had the audience in fits of laughter and floods of tears.
I must admit, when the production first started I was slightly wary of the physical theatre aspect, but surprise surprise, professional actors are in fact better at this than the GCSE drama class I was a part of, so I was quickly won over. In fact, the blends of genres helped define the performance as a whole, creating a unique musical that felt like a celebration of theatre.
Not only were the actors engaging, the designers behind the impeccable stagecraft, costume, sound and lighting truly were the cherry on the cake… or should I say pie? This, alongside the marvellous female-led creative team, helped create a piece of theatre that deserves every bit of recognition it has received. I think it is safe to say, Waitress is quite possibly the prize-winning dish served up in the world of musicals.
Waitress runs at Birmingham Hippodrome until Saturday May 21. More details and tickets are available here