Broadway Across Canada production
Jubilee Auditorium, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
Tuesday Nov. 26, 2019 to Sunday, Dec. 1, 2019
On the surface, Waitress ought not to have been a Broadway hit.
The touring version of the show, at Edmonton's Jubilee Auditorium from Tuesday Nov. 26 2019 to Sunday, Dec. 1, 2019, skates across well-worn Americana themes - unfulfilled lives in small towns, ekeing out livings by serving in roadhouses, putting up with snarly customers, looking for love in all the wrong places. All is delivered with much humour and song.
And it takes about 20 minutes into this touring Broadway production for the audience, consciously or unconsciously, to grasp this shows's deeper, if predictable, thematic currents: That "love" is a pretty weird thing, manifesting itself in a myriad of ways; that no one way is better or worse than another - believe me, conventional happy married-couple love is conspiculously absent!; that romantic/physical love somehow helps reconcile the individual with their station in life; that familial love does give strength and courage.
All this floats under the deliberately hokey setting of the dinette where Jenna (Bailey McCall) sublimates her romantic frustrations - being married to a near monster - in the making and serving of the best pies in the county, in the state, in all of America!
Jenna's two best friends, also servers, each have their own romantic frustrations, that gently resolve themselves in subplots as the show gets deeper.
What's remarkable about Waitress is how it sticks to universal romantic-love themes, completely resisting the temptation to go down any number of trendy socio-economic themes - not a trace of climate change comment to be seen!
Most memorable is the quiet point that Waitress makes. That "love" does work in different ways for different people. One of the show's relationships is of two individuals who are married, who love their mates, but have no love life at home. They make rather robust love (in a humourous) way not so much for emotional satisfaction as good ol' physically-oriented bed buddies.
Jenna's loveless relationship to her bully husband Earl - convincingly played by Clayton Howe - fulfills one of the finer functions of live theatre. His ego, brutishness, manipulation of Jenna is chillingly real - reminding the audience of just how destructive and life-draining such unequal relationships are, when one neurotic dominating person is convinced of the rightness of it all, while the beaten-down other is trapped in a living hell.
In the end, being an American musical, everything works out. Those who have been through tough times have learned a few lessons, drawn strength from one another. The dog comes back, the wife comes back, the truck comes back.
There's so much to this musical than initially meets the eye. One would have to conclude it may have been inspirational enough to have helped those watching it to do something about the roadblocks in their own lives.