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Photo: Joan Marcus

Cititour.com Review
“Sugar. Butter. Flour.” These are the necessary ingredients for a good pie, as we’re constantly reminded in “Waitress,” the remarkably appealing musical adaptation of Adrienne Shelly’s popular independent film, now bowing at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre. Smartly, the right ingredients for a crowd-pleasing theatrical entertainment have been mixed here: Sara Bareilles’ catchy pop-theatrical score, Diane Paulus’ steady and relatively unshowy direction, and a first-rate cast led by the finest ingredient of them all: the amazing Jessie Mueller.

The Tony Award-winning star, an equally consummate actress and singer, is anything but flaky as Jenna, the small-town pie-making genius stuck in an unhappy marriage to her abusive high school sweetheart Earl (an alternately sympathetic and hateful Nick Cordero). Nor does she seem particularly happy working as a waitress -- and exceedingly inventive piemaker -- at the local diner (nicely designed by Scott Pask), where she waits on crusty owner Joe (the ever-excellent Dakin Matthews), takes orders from beleaguered manager Cal (a very funny Eric Anderson), and hangs with her besties, the super-shy Dawn (Kimiko Green, a true comic find) and the sassy yet kind Becky (a priceless Keala Settle).

Jenna’s mundane life is changed almost instantly when she finds out she’s pregnant, and then again, shortly after, when she begins an affair with her sweet-natured married gynecologist (the adorable Drew Gehling). Every conflict in Jenna’s life feels entirely real in Mueller’s expert hands, as does every moment of pleasure she relishes (rare as they are) and every moment of regret she wallows in (magnificently summed up in her stunning 11 o’clock number “She Used to Be Mine.”) Try as she might to find refuge in a pie crust or a daydream, Jenna ultimately learns she can’t escape reality.

Jessie Nelson’s book travels this well-trod road smoothly, if not altogether economically, while Bareilles, best known for her Grammy-nominated single “Brave,” hits many of the right songwriting marks. Among the score’s standouts are “When He Sees Me,” which expresses Dawn’s hopes for true love – something she eventually finds with the eccentric Ogie (the delicious Christopher Fitzgerald, who has never found a scene he couldn’t steal), the love ballad “You Matter to Me,” and the clever “Negative,” which might be the first Broadway song written about waiting for the results of a pregnancy test. Perhaps the one contributor who lets the show down is choreographer Lorin Lattarro, who adds some pleasant movement but not enough true dancing.

As any veteran Broadway theatergoer knows, turning out a tasty and satisfying original musical like “Waitress” is far from easy as pie. And in this case, I suspect some viewers will be coming back for seconds.
By Brian Scott Lipton

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Jessie Mueller, Nick Cordero, Eric Anderson, Christopher Fitzgerald, Drew Gehling, Kimiko Glenn, Dakin Matthews, Keala Settle, Charity Angel Dawson, Thay Floyd, Henry Gottfried, Molly Hager, Aisha Jackson, Claire Keane, McKenna Keane, Max Kumangai, Jeremy Morse, Ragan Pharris, Stephanie Torns, Ryan Vasquez

Open/Close Dates
Opening 4/24/2016
Closing 1/5/2020

Preview Open/ Preview Close Dates
Preview Opening 3/25/2016
Closing Open-ended

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Theatre Info
Brooks Atkinson Theatre
256 West 47th Street
New York, NY 10036