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Theatre / Waitress

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Let's see the next amazing thing baking does now.

— The show's Arc Words

Waitress is a musical with music and lyrics written by Sara Bareilles and a book by Jessie Nelson, based on the Adrienne Shelly film. Originally premiering at the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, Massachusetts in August 2015, Waitress made the move to Broadway in April 2016, premiering at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre.

The musical tells the story of Broken Bird Jenna Hunterson, a waitress with an incredible flair for baking pies stuck in an abusive marriage. Things only get worse for Jenna when an unwanted pregnancy comes out of the marriage but she soon finds solace in her gynaecologist, Dr. Pomatter.

The original Broadway cast features Jessie Mueller as Jenna Hunterson, Drew Gehling as Dr. Jim Pomatter, Nick Cordero as Earl Hunterson, Keala Settle as Becky, Kimiko Glenn as Dawn Williams, Dakin Matthews as Joe and Christopher Fitzgerald as Ogie Anhorn.


The musical received a limited revival in Fall 2021, with Sara Bareilles as Jenna for the first couple of months.

Waitress contains examples of:

  • Adaptational Nice Guy: Ogie in the film comes off as a slightly manipulative creep that doesn't know how to take "no" for an answer, since Dawn just met him for five minutes. Here, he and Dawn actually have some things in common, and she does a Dramatic Drop on learning he does American Revolution reenactments and has the same opinion about whipped cream on pie.
  • Adaptation Distillation: Most of the subplots in the movie are pared down so they can be portrayed onscreen. Joe in this version owns the pie shop diner, which is why he frequents it. After he dies, he leaves it to her in her will because she was his Only Friend, rather than leaving her money.
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  • Ambiguous Disorder: Dawn seems to have some severe social anxiety, as explained in "When He Sees Me", and shows some characteristics of having Aspergers Syndrome.
  • Arc Words: The words sugar, butter, flour are sang throughout the musical; they're the three primary ingredients in pastry.
  • Babies Make Everything Better: Throughout the musical Jenna frequently mentions that while she is going to have her baby, if given a choice she'd rather not have it. When she finally gives birth, her baby, Lulu, gives her the strength and courage to leave Earl and demand a divorce.
  • Beta Couple: Dawn and Ogie's love story ends up inspiring Jenna in many ways. To a lesser extent, Becky and Cal also serve this purpose.
  • Broken Bird: Jenna is a Nice Girl who is beaten and emotionally abused by her husband and her feelings are best explored in "She Used to Be Mine":
    Jenna: She is hard on herself, she is broken and won't ask for help.
  • BSoD Song: Jenna sings "She Used To Be Mine" after having to lie to her abusive husband about the money she was saving to start a new life. The lyrics deal with her realizing just how much of a shell of her former self she's become because of her marriage.
  • Compliment Backfire: Dr. Pomatter compares Jenna to a waitress he once knew, and brings up that said waitress is now well into her middle age, which of course comes out wrong. He quickly clarifies that he meant that she was always very sweet to him and gave him dessert even when he couldn't afford it, and Jenna reminds him of her.
  • Domestic Abuse: Earl berates Jenna, taking the tips she makes from work and makes her doubt her abilities, saying that she's "no Sara Lee". It reaches it's peak when he goes to hit Jenna and only doesn't because she says she's pregnant.
    • A brief scene shows that Jenna's own mother was victim to this as well.
  • Gender Flip: The character of Joe is typically a man played by a man. However, when June Squibb played the role Joe became Josie.
  • Grumpy Old Man: Joe plays up this with his overly specific food orders and complaining but deep down he's really a sweet guy who encourages Jenna to see her own potential, even gifting her the diner when he passes.
  • Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold: In the musical (most productions Jenna is a blonde), Dawn states that Jenna is "the queen of kindness and goodness".
  • Idiot Ball: Jenna hiding some of her money all around the house, rather than at work. Her coworkers are less likely to steal it, and Earl never enters the pie shop kitchen.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Cal is a snarky boss who trolls Jenna's doctor when she uses the pie shop phone to make a call, but he keeps her on staff, tries to protect her when Earl shows up at Dawn's wedding, and has her back. He's pretty gracious about the fact that Joe leaves the pie shop to her, even though that makes her the boss, because she's finally left her husband and has a better life.
  • Job Title: Jenna is the titular waitress but co-workers Becky and Dawn have their own lives explored too.
  • One-Word Title: Named for its protagonist's profession.
  • Protagonist Title: As the Job Title is the protagonist's job.
  • Sassy Black Woman: Becky talks back to Cal the most out of the waitresses and while Keala Settle, the actress who originated the role of Becky, is of Māori descent, many of the actresses who followed her have been black.
  • Shipper on Deck: Cal ships Ogie and Dawn, and gives Ogie advice when the latter has anxiety attacks.
  • The Unreveal: Unlike in the film, we never find out if Jenna wins the pie contest in Springfield, but it doesn't matter because Joe leaves her the pie shop. However, during the finale, Jenna holds a pie with a blue ribbon on it, so she won a pie contest at some point, it's just not clear when.
  • You Are Better Than You Think You Are!: Joe's song to Jenna, "Take it From an Old Man", is essentially this.
    Joe: I believe that there’s something in you. Something good is tryin’ to break through.


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