Never mind who won The Great British Bake Off… the real winners were the audience at His Majesty’s who were served up a huge slice of delicious musical theatre in Waitress.
This West End smash about a waitress and pie-maker extraordinaire had all the ingredients you could wish for – romance, comedy, characters you care about and, above all else, a stunning score that once heard won’t be forgotten.
You can thank singer-songwriter Sara Bareilles for the latter, with numbers that range from massive ballads like She Used To Be Mine – an instant musical theatre classic – to the knockabout fun of Never Ever Getting Rid Of Me.
With clever lyrics and masterful tunes that drive the story along effortlessly, it’s little wonder the show won a slew of Tony and Olivier Awards, not to mention a Grammy for best musical theatre album.
The touring version, which is at HMT until Saturday, has a cherry on top in Lucie Jones as Jenna, the eponymous waitress in a Southern US diner who enters a pie-making contest in the hope of winning a better life for herself and her unborn baby, away from her abusive husband.
Lucie Jones’ voice is near perfect
Her voice is near perfect, giving Bareilles’ songs the oomph they demand to raise the hairs on your neck in the huge emotional moments, but the lightness needed to raise a smile when humour is to the fore.
And humour is front and foremost much of the time, especially in a breakneck – and saucy sequence – when Jenna starts a tempestuous affair with her gynaecologist, played by Matt Willis of Busted fame.
Jenna likes to give her baked creations unusual names to reflect her mood… and some of them are a wee bit more than suggestive than a digestive during her fling with the good doctor.
And Matt is very good indeed as Dr Pomatter, gangly and neurotic and completely smitten by the kind, engaging but troubled Jenna who can create magic with flour, sugar, butter.
He’s in great voice, especially when paired with Lucie in tender moments, like the song You Matter To Me or the increasingly racy Bad Idea that sees the two get together at the end of the first act.
Tears as well as laughter in Waitress
Not that the raunch factor is left to these two alone. Jenna’s fellow waitresses Becky and Dawn Sandra Marvin and Evie Hoskins – get in on the act in an eyebrow-raising sequence that carries a PG rating as the three couples raise the temperature and the laughs.
It’s not all fun and games, though. At the heart of Waitress lies the ugly reality of Jenna’s abusive husband Earl, with actor Tamlyn Henderson fearlessly turning up the nastiness. It’s disturbing at times, but serves to give the emotional heft that makes Waitress work so well. There are tears as well as laughter.
Part of the show’s success in the staging –the principals and ensemble are constantly moving with a light-touch choreography that is put to best effect when Jenna’s flights of fancy are played out in a dreamlike slo-mo.
At its heart, though, is the music. The signature tune everyone waits for is the aforementioned She Used To Be Mine – delivered with spine-tingling passion by Jenna to make it the showstopper it is.
Find out more about Waitress at HMT
Yet if you go into Waitress knowing that song alone you come out with a headful of tunes that will live there for a long time, along with memories of a great night at His Majesty’s
If Jenna were to have baked Waitress, she would call probably call it “A Huge Slice Of Musical Theatre Heaven” pie.
For more information and tickets go to aberdeenperformingarts.com