waitress trio

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


Birmingham Hippodrome


I arrived to watch Waitress, knowing precious little about it, beyond that it was about a waitress, it was a musical that was based on a 2007 film also called Waitress (which I also hadn’t seen) and that it had a couple of big names in the star roles, in the shape of Chelsea Halfpenny and Matt Jay-Willis.

Celebrity headliners are not always a sure sign of quality but in the case of Waitress they put in fantastic performances. Chelsea Halfpenny, as piemaker extraordinaire Jenna, is simply superb.

She has a charm and a vulnerability which makes you really care about the struggles she’s going through. Her rendition of She Used to be Mine is one of the most emotionally charged performances I’ve seen in recent times.

Matt Jay-Willis, he of Busted fame, was – for me at least – the surprise package of the night. Though he always seems a genuine and nice bloke on TV, I didn't know what to expect of him in a musical. As it turns out, I needn't have worried.. His singing voice is excellent and he delivers a charming and neurotic turn as the illicit love interest as Dr Pomatter. The chemistry between the two leads was believable and their comic timing spot on.

doc and Jenna

Chelsea Halfpenny as Jenna and Matt Jay-Willis as Dr. Pomatter

Supporting cast were excellent with Wendy Mae Brown, as Becky, stealing many a scene. Along with Evelyn Hoskins’, Dawn – you can really pull for the trio of waitresses.

The Diner, with its daily pie specials, is the heart of the piece – bursting with positivity and promise but sometimes with the sprinkling of disappointment that life can bring. Within it, Michael Starke brings a real sense of Southern gentlemanly charm to the proceedings as the not so cantankerous Joe.

The Diner is also where we see the superb orchestra – led by Ellen Campbell and suitably attired as a country band. I loved having the band on stage and they never felt intrusive, indeed having them in full view made the experience seem all the more immersive.

In terms of the storyline, it is a funny old yarn. In some ways it is fun and kitsch and overboard and then in other ways it strays into dark territory – unhappy marriages, infidelity, domestic abuse and coercive behaviour.

While Waitress touches on these topics and Tamlyn Henderson brings an oppressive atmosphere as the abusive husband Earl, I’m not sure that it ever truly tackles these situations with enough depth and the emotional payoff at its conclusion, whilst eliciting cheers from some of the audience, was a tad simplistic for me. But then maybe it’s not aimed at me.  

Indeed, for many (and most importantly for those the subject matter effects most – victims of domestic abuse) maybe it is simply enough to have those subjects on stage. I certainly hope so. Maybe, it doesn’t need analyzing, instead it needs celebrating.  

Overall, Waitress is great fun and really enjoyable and the finale has a real sense of joy about it. There’s lots to love about this production. Some people love the songs, some the jokes and others the inspirational story.

For me personally - I loved the pies! Firstly, it made me think of all the best pies I’ve eaten, then it inspired me to think of the top three pies I’ve ever eaten (they were to be found in Doncaster, Portugal and Tipton if you’re interested) Lastly, it just made me really, really, really want a multitude of pies.! The cooking scenes are done so well and the prop (and real) pies look so good, that though there may be something there for everyone, I defy you not to fancy some pie afterwards. To 21-05-22.

Theo Clarke


There is a British Sign Language and captioned performance on 19 May and an audio described performance on 21 May. Due to themes and some bad language, age guidance is for 13+ which I would gauge just about right. Book HERE

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