Waitress, Wales Millennium Centre

June 1, 2022 by

The front curtain for the show Waitress is a cherry pie and for a moment I expected something to pop through it. Think American Pie. In fact, by the end that would have made sense, such is the odd combination of a happy, zippy, hokey comedy with ugly issues such as domestic abuse, unwanted pregnancy, adultery – oh, and medical malpractice. I am not sure this one is in Mary Berry’s cookery books.

It feels kind of strange laughing at the genuinely funny scenes, enjoying the quirky characters and the standard girl with a dream story line, here a small-town diner waitress Jenna, while not judging all of the morally challenged characters who are all compromised, or perhaps I should say have ethically compromised themselves, to get through it.

The musical is adapted from Adrienne Shelly’s 2007 film Waitress and the story line of a girl who has been taught baking by her mother who was also in an abusive relationship and used the creations in the kitchen as an escape mechanism from the reality of her life. Like mother, like daughter it seems. The conceit of mixing together ingredients in unusual combinations to achieve sensational results is a perfectly acceptable and presumably the odd way the other characters react to eating the pies is a metaphor for escapism in general.


Chelsea Halfpenny and David Hunter

Chelsey Halfpenny

Evelyn Hoskins, Wendy Mae Brown and Chelsea Halfpenny

Wendy Mae Brown and George Crawford


These flawed characters include gynaecologist fellow adulterer Dr Pomatter, sung beautifully and acted with comic flair by David Hunter and her sassy waitress colleague Becky a wonderful portrayal by Wendy Mae Brown, who coped with having no sex life with her sick husband by shagging the diner manager. Then we have the ditzy/ nerdy waitress Dawn, charmingly acted by Evelyn Hoskins, who finds  a partner in the whacky shape of Ogie, a fellow history reenactment loon played with energy and pazzazz by George Crawford, and together they discover the joys of sex. Yes, sex does figure prominently in the show. We also have a Colonel Saunders type of lovable older grandpa figure, but he too can’t stop going on about the women he has had it away with. Maybe some bromide in the recipes would have helped then all.

The most difficult character is the boo hiss husband, Earl, played by Tamlyn Henderson. He is controlling, hot tempered, workshy and lazy,  and as he raises his hand to Jenna so is also presumably physically abusive. The resolution to the failed relationship comes when another man gives her the way to escape and fulfil her dreams. Hmm. The female-empowerment is of course very of the moment although the eureka moment of giving birth was a bit OTT. More worrying is that muddled treatment of  sexual politics and drawing of the male characters.

Chelsea Halfpenny was perfect in the role with just the right balance of real-world weariness dragging down her fantasy dream world. Like the other main characters, she is no conventional heroine, she recognises her flaws and disappointment in herself. Halfpenny sang the songs with feeling and musical theatre oomph and was neat and slick in the comedy scenes.

The staging is very strong, transforming from scene to scene effortlessly and having the band on the stage, usually in the corner of the diner, works extremely well. It adds to the country and western feel to the songs, think Dolly Parton in an apron, and they range from the witty to the torch song, the jolly ditty to the big hitter such as She Used to be Mine.

The audience loved it and while the expression “it all goes down the same way” may apply, I still thought the combination of flavours didn’t quite deserve a Paul Hollywood handshake.

Maybe just a nice big fly on the cherry pie of the front curtain would have been appropriate.


Until June 4.



Images: Johan Persson

Leave a Reply