Evelyn Hoskins  as Dawn, Chelsea Halfpenny as Jenna and Wendy Mae Brown as Becky. Pictures: Johan Persson


Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton


Waitress is as light and fluffy as one of Jenna’s marshmallow desert pies, with the odd naughty bit hidden in the topping, but there is a dark, rather bitter centre which gives a more serious flavour to what is served up in this hit musical.

We follow the lives of three waitresses at Joe’s Pie Diner, with a set (Scott Pask) that evokes a typical Mid West small town American scene.

 There is Evelyn Hoskins Dawn, a lovely comic performance as a 24 carat, 100 per cent nerd, who eats TV dinners alone watching The History Channel.

You just know that beneath the gawkiness, take off the glasses, let down the hair, and Hollywood style she is going to be gorgeous. Still mad as a hatter, mind, but gorgeous.

Then there is Wendy Mae Brown’s Becky, with what we learn is an invalid husband she loves but has left her with a yearning for something now long missing in her life, telling us “it’s so quiet down there you can hear an echo”. She’s sassy, has some great lines, delivered with brilliant style and one of those voices that makes the hairs stand up on the back of your neck.

Her I didn’t Plan It solo is a stand-out moment, what a stunning voice that lady has.


Sex in short order:  Wendy Mae Brown as Becky and Christopher D Hunt as Cal

Then we have Chelsea Halfpenny as Jenna, pie maker supreme, the short crust queen, with a pie for every occasion, every day, every emotion.

Jenna has a sort of girl next door innocence about her, a homeliness, a poster girl for a warm, loving relationship, but it is all a façade of normality, there is a sadness there as well, the diner is her safe place, behind her charm and smiles, her life is one of misery with an abusive pig of a husband, who demands her tips . . . and more, much more.

We feel for her when she finds she is pregnant with a baby – and its father - she doesn’t want. She makes her anthem of despair, She used to be mine, a real show stopper opening with it's not simple to say, most days I don't recognize me and closing She is gone but she used to be mine. A song that tugs the heart strings.

abusive earl

Tamlyn Henderson as the abusive Earl, serenading Jenna

Her abusive husband is Earl, played with sinister panache by Australian Tamlyn Henderson – never really physically nasty, but always looking capable of it, and he throws in emotional abuse for good measure. A fine and measured performance.

It is perhaps no surprise when Jenna finds some comfort in her gynaecologist Dr Pomatter, played with a wonderful flair for comedy by David Hunter.

It’s played for laughs, and we can sympathise with Jenna, but a supposedly happily married doctor having an affair with a patient, and a vulnerable one at that? There’s bedside manner and, well, bed on the side manner.

You get the feeling the acerbic Nurse Norma, played with lovely timing by Scarlet Gabriel, was none too impressed at the doc's blurring of the line between work and play.

Becky meanwhile is finding the echo down there can be diminished with the help of Cal, played with a comic bent by Christopher D Hunt, the chef who runs Joe’s diner with a rod of somewhat malleable iron that none of the staff actually take any notice of as they carry on in their own sweet way.

Even Dawn finds there is life beyond The History Channel and sex is not a number between five and seven when George Crawford’s Ogie answers her bizarre entry on a dating site.


 Romance by appointment: Jenna and Dr Pomatter, played by David Hunter

As he is just as eccentric, perhaps even more so than she is, the pair get on, indeed get it on, just fine with some lovely comedy scenes. No echoes down there one suspects.

Then there is Joe, old, avuncular, crotchety Joe played by Michael Starke, the Joe in Joe’s Pie Diner, with a colourful past of numerous wives and their sexual mores, and homely advice, and horoscopes for Jenna.

Based on the late Adrienne Shelly’s 2007 film the musical, with book by Jessie Nelson and music and lyrics by Sara Bareilles, has some lively numbers, some powerful ballads and some clever choreography from Lorin Latarro and it is interesting to see the excellent five piece band on stage with the piano serving as a pie counter.

It all works out right at the end, with wild cheers when Earl is sent packing – victims of abuse must dream, or perhaps more despair, of it being that easy – and the unwanted baby becomes the lovely Lulu, Jenna’s pride and joy, played with infectious enthusiasm on Press night by Evelyn Kent, aged just four, from Solihull.

The result is an entertaining, feel good evening, a little light and sugary at times, a little rich in places, but all balanced with a dark centre. Directed by Diane Paulus the pies have a Grand see by date of 02-07-22

Roger Clarke


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