Theatre Review: Waitress - Check Please!

Waitress, Adelphi Theatre ★★★☆☆

Theatre Review: Waitress - Check Please! Waitress, Adelphi Theatre 3
Photo: Johan Persson

Waitress the 2007 movie was a surprise hit. Dark with the shadow of Jeremy Sisto's brooding thug, warm with the glow of Nathan Fillion's white-coated charm, alert with a splendid believable central performance from Keri Russell and sassy sidekick Cheryl Hines.

Waitress the musical is none of these things.

It feels assembled, as if from a kit. The lead character has been sugared beyond all recognition, and Katherine McPhee's vocally bold performance doesn't draw you to her. The men are ciphers, and the splendid Marisha Wallace is unusually restrained, and cursed with a terrible running gag about why one of her breasts hangs lower than the other. They pipe the scent of baked pies into the auditorium, but with this motif, there's a whiff of something much nastier.

As an anthem to feminist determinism, Waitress doesn't pass any kind of Bechdel test. For sure our heroine Jenna deserts her brutish husband, but only to shag her professionally inappropriate gynaecologist, and then junks him for single motherhood — just as a kindly older gent leaves her the money to open her own cafe. She's really the creepiest pie shop proprietor since Mrs Lovett.

Do the Sarah Bareilles songs save it? Maybe. The on-stage band led by Katherine Woolley is lively with the sort of twangling you'd pick up driving Route 66 and tuning in and out of country music stations. Mary Chapin Carpenter on anti-depressants, perhaps. The sound balance is a mess, but 'She Used to be Mine' is an undeniably standout song.

Like a lot of made from-a-movie musicals, this is aimed firmly at the prosecco-chugging girls' night out crowd. For anyone else looking for a well-crafted musical with a strong female lead, there's Company.

Waitress, Adelphi Theatre, Strand WC2R 0NS, £19.50-£125. Booking to 19 October

By Max Black

Last Updated 08 March 2019