If you’re looking for a “Bad Idea” right now, missing out on seeing ‘Waitress’ at Playhouse Square’s Hanna Theatre is definitely one of them. The hit Broadway musical has returned to Cleveland for a limited time to serve up a slice of happiness.
‘Waitress’ follows the story of Jenna (Stephanie Torns), a pie-making extraordinaire and waitress at Joe’s Diner. She works alongside her friends Dawn (Kendyl Ito) and Becky (Olivia Lucy Phillip), and each night goes home to her not-so-great husband, Earl (Matt DeAngelis). After finding out about her (undesired) pregnancy, Jenna goes to see the handsome and charming Dr. Pomatter (Bryan Fenkart). The relationship between the two of them develops rapidly, leaving Jenna in a sticky situation and wondering if “happy enough” is where she wants to be.
The plot of the musical is fun and keeps the audience on their toes as they wonder alongside Jenna. What should her next move be? What should she do? Of course, the recipe for a good musical involves strong music and lyrics, and ‘Waitress’ definitely delivers here. With music and lyrics written by Grammy Award-winner Sara Bareilles the songs are emotional, heartfelt, and certainly have been stuck in the heads of audience members for days. (One could not expect anything else from a musical genius like Bareilles!)
Torns wowed the audience. This is not her first time at the diner. She began as a member of the ensemble for the initial Out of Town, Broadway previews, and Broadway opening. She has essentially been with the show through and through since 2016. Now, it’s her time to shine as the show’s lead, and by golly, she has earned it! And, not just for time served either. Her talents, combined with her dedication to the show, have paid dividends. Seeing her take lead on stage was inspiring as she brought Jenna’s story to life. Her strong voice carries in songs like “She Used to Be Mine” and “Bad Idea.” The two other supporting ladies, Kendyl Ito and Olivia Lucy Phillip had impressive pipes as well. The most remarkable part was how beautiful the trio’s voices blended together in songs like “The Negative” and “A Soft Place To Land.”
Of course, a special shout-out must also go to Eloise Higgins, a Beachwood local who was cast to play Jenna’s daughter, Lulu alongside the touring cast! This production marks Higgins’ first time on the big stage and it was wonderful to see her light up in front of the crowd.
The show reminds us all to value ourselves unapologetically, do what makes us happy, and keep those who love and support us the closest. Maybe it feels silly to have all these deep messages told through the metaphor of baking a pie, but that’s just “What Baking Can Do”!