Review: Waitress The Musical, Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff

Thomas & Rachel Howells visit Wales Millennium Centre to witness the UK Tour of Waitress starring Chelsea Halfpenny as Jenna.

The Musical, Waitress based on the 2007 film of the same name, has arrived at Wales Millennium Centre and is served to perfection!

The plot follows a waitress named Jenna who lives in an abusive relationship with her manipulative husband, Earl. When Jenna unexpectedly, finds herself pregnant, she begins an affair with her new gynaecologist, Dr. Pomatter. Jenna is also encouraged by the owner of the pie diner she works at to enter a pie competition (with a generous prize as a way out of her predicament.)

As the story takes place in an American diner themed around pies, there is heavy imagery of the food. From the impossible number of varieties, like blackberry or the classic, “I can’t have an affair because it’s wrong” and “I don’t want Earl to kill me” pie, to the use of pies in the choreography, this show emphasises the beauty of baking. Moreover, it conveys a highly relaxing nature to the process of making what you love as a form of escapism for Jenna.

Pies are present in most scenes. The only location where one is never seen is Jenna’s home, pushing the pain that abuse causes and conveying a feeling that there is no escape. The home itself is designed carefully to look painful, conveying a careless nature to Earl, who owns the home. On a similar note, the different locations all genuinely look like real places, creating a far more immersive experience.

The stereotypical American diner perfectly suits the style of the music and the personalities of characters. Each set transition is executed cleanly and quickly and creates a respectful link to the source material. The band are also visible on stage and feature quite naturally as if they were a group playing in the diner.

This set is complimented greatly by the lighting, especially during Jenna’s dream-scenes and monologue. That reminded me a lot of ‘Holding to the Ground’ in Falsettos, these examples use spotlights and the frequency of them creates a slight feel that the spotlight is overused.

Each member of the ensemble cast is essential to the storyline.  This is prominent during the powerfully choreographed baking scenes with every move timed to perfection.

Having previously seen Lucie Jones play Jenna in the West End, I was excited to see what Chelsea Halfpenny could do with the role. I have to say I loved her warm and tender performance she projected from the stage.

David Hunter was perfection in the role of Dr Pomatter, so good was his performance it felt like the role was written especially for him.  His comic timing really elevated the scenes.

Michael Starke played Old Joe with a touch of sweetness, especially in the scenes he shares opposite Chelsea Halfpenny’s Jenna.

Script-wise, Waitress is packed with witty lines and jokes which strike a perfect balance working with the shows more serious storylines in a carefully constructed script. This keeps the audience laughing. The all-important themes of friendship and love are brought to the forefront, furthering how beautiful Waitress is.

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