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WAITRESS at Shea’s charms with Sara Bareilles score, stunning sets, and a strong cast.

THE BASICS: WAITRESS, a touring production of the Broadway musical presented by Shea’s and Albert Nocciolino runs through Sunday evening, February 11, Thursday at 7:30, Friday at 8, Saturday at 2 & 8, Sunday at 2 & 7 at Shea’s Performing Arts Center, 646 Main Street (1-800-745-3000). Full service bar, champagne bar, coffee bar, snacks, souvenirs. Runtime: 2-1/2 hours with one intermission.

THUMBNAIL SKETCH: Based on the 2007 movie of the same name, Jenna (Desi Oakley) is a waitress trapped in a bad marriage to Earl (Nick Bailey) and now she’s pregnant. She bakes dozens of pies for the restaurant including a daily signature pie which expresses her feelings, for example “I don’t want to have Earl’s baby” pie. Her more loving “work family” includes the in-your-face Becky (Charity Angel Dawson on opening night, Maiesha McQueen for the rest of the run) and the goofy Dawn (Lenne Klingaman), along with the gruff cook, Cal, and a variety of customers. Arriving for her first pre-natal visit, she finds that her old doctor has been replaced by the awkward but kindly Dr. Pomatter (Bryan Fenkart) and a romance/affair blossoms.

THE PLAYERS, THE PLAY, AND THE PRODUCTION: January and February have given us months of strong women-led productions on a wide variety of Buffalo stages, and WAITRESS is no exception. In case you don’t know, it’s based on the movie by Ms. Adrienne Shelly, with book by Ms. Jessie Nelson, music by Ms. Sara Bareilles, and it’s directed by Ms. Diane Paulus. This is a musical about women’s issues (crappy low-paying jobs, unequal marriage roles, pregnancy) created by women and so, as wild as it sometimes gets, and there is some pretty explicit sex pantomimed on stage, it all feels “right” and not exploitive.

The music by Sara Bareilles is refreshingly different from your standard trumpet-and-trap-set Broadway score.

The sets are first rate, with a back-screen projection, and stunning choreography to create a mad swirl of scenes showing restaurant, doctor’s office, and Jenna’s home. And the music by Sara Bareilles is refreshingly different from your standard trumpet-and-trap-set Broadway score. Admittedly, some of the lyrics are less than inspired, but that’s a minor quibble.

Grab a cup of steaming coffee and a slice of what I’ll call ‘To hell with the snow get over to this show’ pie.

And, just as the recent ON YOUR FEET featured really hunky muscled dancers and not those typical skinny Broadway twits, WAITRESS takes it further, with real fully-figured body shapes, the kind of people you’d see eating a slice of pie in Buffalo. So grab a cup of steaming coffee and a slice of what I’ll call “To hell with the snow get over to this show” pie and enjoy something deliciously different.

*HERD OF BUFFALO (Notes on the Rating System)

ONE BUFFALO: This means trouble. A dreadful play, a highly flawed production, or both. Unless there is some really compelling reason for you to attend (i.e. you are the parent of someone who is in it), give this show a wide berth.

TWO BUFFALOS: Passable, but no great shakes. Either the production is pretty far off base, or the play itself is problematic. Unless you are the sort of person who’s happy just going to the theater, you might look around for something else.

THREE BUFFALOS: I still have my issues, but this is a pretty darn good night at the theater. If you don’t go in with huge expectations, you will probably be pleased.

FOUR BUFFALOS: Both the production and the play are of high caliber. If the genre/content are up your alley, I would make a real effort to attend.

FIVE BUFFALOS: Truly superb–a rare rating. Comedies that leave you weak with laughter, dramas that really touch the heart. Provided that this is the kind of show you like, you’d be a fool to miss it!

Written by Peter Hall

Peter Hall

Peter Hall continues trying to figure out how "it" all works. For over 20 years, as a producer and program host on WNED Classical (94.5 FM), he's conducted over 1,000 interviews with artists as he asks them to explain, in layman's terms, "what's the big picture here?" These days Peter can be heard regularly on Sunday afternoons from 1 to 5.

On “Theater Talk” (heard Friday mornings at 6:45 and 8:45 a.m. on WBFO 88.7 FM) his favorite question of co-host Anthony Chase is simply "What's goin' on?" As mentioned recently in Buffalo Spree magazine, Peter's "Buffalo Rising reviews are the no-holds barred 'everyman's' take."

A member of Buffalo's Artie Awards Committee, Peter holds a B.A. in Comparative Literature from Columbia University and an M.B.A. from SUNY at Buffalo. For over twenty-five years he was an adjunct professor for Canisius College’s Richard J. Wehle School of Business.

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