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Pie In the Sky: A Review Of 'Waitress'

Running until December 2, is Atlantis’ production of Waitress, a wonderful, mature musical comedy that features a truly talented and polished cast headed by Joanna Ampil in the title role of Jenna. With Bobby Garcia directing, this direct from Broadway hit show does have the 2007 movie written and directed by the late Adrienne Shelly as its source material, but reincarnated with the Book by Jessie Nelson, and Music & Lyrics by the one and only Sara Bareilles. In fact, Bareilles herself played Jenna on Broadway for a limited period late last year, along with Jason Mraz as Dr. Pomatter.


A whiz at baking pies, Jenna works as a waitress at a diner along with the sassy and earthy Becky (Bituin Escalante) and the timid wallflower Dawn (Maronne Cruz). Married to the oafish Earl (George Schulze), Jenna yearns to realize her potential, dreaming of a better life; and this personal drama is heightened when she’s beset by an untimely pregnancy. 

It’s against this background that the stage is set for a journey that has much to do with working women finding fulfillment, and traversing life with laughter, tears, pain, and hope. That men figure in the lives of our three everyday heroines is a given, but do watch out for Ogie (Nino Alejandro), the online date of Dawn, as it’s a hilarious, eccentric role that won awards in New York. And of course, there’s Dr. Pomatter (Bibo Reyes), who becomes Jenna’s gynecologist... and more!


Thematically, there’s a lot of fooling around, and in fact, it becomes something of a Cheaters’ Paradise to highlight how much yearning and hoping for something better can lead both men and women to head down that path ever so easily, only to be conscience-stricken after. I loved the in-your-face ‘this happens, and if it’s between consenting adults, who are we to judge or cast the first stone’ attitude; and the strong feminist single-mother slant that also develops. Like I said, there’s a direct and honest approach to how this is all presented and resolved. 

But beyond the storyline, Waitress truly takes off with the music of Bareilles. It soars, it fills the heart, and Joanna Ampil is so up to the task, one would be hard-pressed to find a dry face when she sings the plaintive "She Used To Be Mine" in the second act. This is part of the magic conjured up by the musical, how the lightness and quirky humor of the first act, develops into real issues and sticky situations that we all have to face up to in order to keep our lives from being too messy. 




You’ll appreciate how all of the main characters are given a song number with which to shine, and make their indelible mark, leaving us with lasting impressions of who they are—and why they’re such real persons. 

If you love modern musicals, and want to be impressed by Filipino talent, rush to watch this. It’s practically a crime that Joanna isn’t performing more often here in Manila, headlining one musical after another. So take this opportunity to appreciate what productions and theatrical companies abroad have recognized for so many years now. 


Lead photos via @atlantistheatrical