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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.
  • 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.
  • Ambiguously Gay: It's implied that Cal's wife is a lesbian during "I Didn't Plan It".
  • Arc Words: The words sugar, butter, flour are sang throughout the musical; they're the three primary ingredients in pastry.
  • Anaphora: "She Used To Be Mine" features one:
    She's imperfect but she tries
    She is good but she lies
    She is hard on herself
    She is broken and won't ask for help
    She is messy but she's kind
    She is lonely most of the time
    She is all of this mixed up
    And baked in a beautiful pie
  • 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.
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension: Becky and Cal have this, even before their affair is revealed.
  • Bespectacled Cutie: Dawn is the only character to wear glasses.
  • Big Brother Instinct: Cal is shown to have this for Jenna and Dawn:
  • 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.
  • Cope by Creating: As in the film, Jenna uses pie baking as an outlet for her problems. Now put to song in “What Baking Can Do”:
    Even doubt can be delicious
    And it washes off of all the dirty dishes
    When it’s done, I can smile
    It’s on someone else’s plate for a while
  • Deadpan Snarker: Cal and Becky both get their good share of digs in. Joe counts as well.
  • 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 its 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.
  • Erotic Eating: Happens during "Bad Idea Reprise".
  • Everyone's Baby Sister: Jenna is this to everyone.
  • Everyone Has Lots of Sex: Showcased brilliantly during "Bad Idea Reprise".
  • Fauxshadow: There are several signs early on that Jenna will win the Springfield Pie Contest and use the prize money to get a new life after she leaves her husband. In the end she doesn't even get to enter that year's contest.
  • Gender Flip: The character of Joe is typically a man played by a man. However, when June Squibb played the role Joe became Josie.
  • Good Adultery, Bad Adultery: Invoked and discussed in "I Didn't Plan It". Becky calls out Jenna for being a Hypocrite for feeling her affair is justified do to Earl being a Jerkass, and thinking Becky's is wrong since her own husband has medical needs and they both know Cal's wife.
  • Good Girls Avoid Abortion: Dr. Pomatter suggests a doctor to who can perform one for Jenna, and she refuses. While she's not entirely enthusiastic about her pregnancy, she doesn't want an abortion. Though, she does not judge anyone else if they decide to get one.
  • 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.
  • Imagine Spot: This happens quite frequently when Jenna invents a new pie in her head.
  • Interrupted Intimacy: Norma walks in on Jim and Jenna quite a few times.
    • Jenna walks in on Becky and Cal at the diner.
  • I'll Pretend I Didn't Hear That: When Dawn talks about her sex life with Ogie, Cal remarks that that was something he did not need to know.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: All snark aside, it is shown Cal is very protective of his staff.
  • Job Title: Jenna is the titular waitress but co-workers Becky and Dawn have their own lives explored too.
  • Kinky Roleplaying: It's shown that Ogie and Dawn dress in full American Revolution costumes during their sexcapades.
  • Morality Pet: Jenna is this for Joe and Cal.
  • Nerds Are Virgins: Played straight with Dawn until she meets Ogie. It's heavily implied that both are virgins until they realize they're perfect for each other, and then have epic sexcapades in "Bad Idea Reprise".
  • 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.
    • Nurse Norma counts as well. She is very aware of Jenna and Dr. Pomatter's affair, and constantly makes snarky remarks about it.
  • Sex at Work: Becky and Call have sex in the diner's kitchen. Of course they get walked in on.
    • Dr. Pomatter and Jenna have sex in his office quite frequently.
  • Shipper on Deck: Cal ships Ogie and Dawn, and gives Ogie advice when the latter has anxiety attacks.
  • Shrinking Violet: Dawn discusses this in "When He Sees Me".
  • Snark-to-Snark Combat: Becky and Cal go head to head quite a few times.
  • 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.
  • Villain Song: Earl is the closest thing to an antagonist the show has, and has a duet with Jenna, called "You Will Still Be Mine"
  • 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.