Dec 04

“Waitress, The Musical” Soon Available at the Movies

Those of us who’ve never seen the hit musical theater adaptation of the movie Waitress will soon have the opportunity to see a filmed version starring the writer of the score, Sara Bareilles. Check your local listings for Waitress, The Movie—Live on Broadway! Showings begin December 7th and run “for five nights only”—though I did find one theater that adds a mid-afternoon.

As described by Filmed On Stage, this version “celebrates the power of friendship, the pursuit of dreams, the families we choose, and the simple joy of a well-baked pie.”

The 2007 Movie (Not a Musical)

Waitress initially was a 2007 movie written by Adrienne Shelly (who also plays a friend of the lead character), who was murdered before the movie even came out.

In brief, Jenna (Keri Russell) the Southern “pie genius” works at Joe’s Diner and is unhappily married to Earl (Jeremy Sisto), who’s controlling and abusive. Making a bad situation worse, there is the misfortune of Jenna unexpectedly becoming pregnant. She then gets involved with her obstetrician (Nathan Fillion), who’s also married. Jenna’s support network are her two female coworkers and the owner of the diner.

Most of what the audience sees about Earl’s behavior is emotional abuse, though there is an instance of physical abuse as well. Many have perceived this portrayal of domestic abuse as realistic.

Waitress has been a crowd-pleaser–and it stands at a very respectable 89% on Rotten Tomatoes. Dana Stevens, Slate, declared that Waitress is a “feminist fairy tale about a woman learning to develop her creative gifts while trapped in a stifling marriage.” In other words, a woman you can root for.

Waitress, The Musical on Film

Or, as Allegra Frank, The Daily Beast, calls it—Waitress: The Musical: The Movie.

Featuring such Broadway hits as “She Used to Be Mine” and “You Matter to Me,” the stage version of Waitress ran for several years. Critical reviews of the filmed version of the musical are scarce. However, when screened at the Tribeca Film Festival this past June, at least two critics weighed in and found the almost two-and-a-half-hour movie worthy.

An excerpt from Damon Wise, Deadline.com:

…Bareilles takes the lead and holds the stage effortlessly as Jenna Hunterson, pastry wizard at Joe’s Pie Diner…Becky (Charity Angél Dawson) and Dawn (Caitlin Houlahan) are her co-workers and confidantes, and it is to them she reveals that, at a time when she’s getting restless with her inattentive and sometimes violent husband Earl (Joe Tippett), she’s pregnant (‘Funny how one night can ruin your whole life’). A visit to Dr. Pomatter (Drew Gehling, a 180-degree contrast to the film’s more stereotypically attractive Nathan Fillion) tells her that not only is she eight weeks gone, she is also perilously attracted to the equally married physician.

As in the movie, there are certain customers that stop by — like the scene-stealing Ogie (Christopher Fitzgerald), Dawn’s eccentric date…and the plot hinges on Jenna’s wistful wish to win the upcoming pie competition and leave Earl. But though, like the movie, the musical doesn’t sugarcoat a bad marriage, there’s some sympathy for Earl — like almost everyone else in this town, he’s a character shaped by disappointment and disillusion.

Although Frank (Daily Beast) found the film version wanting, she does recommend it.

The actual attempts at framing this film like a film range from successful to less-so…

But even if the musical’s attempt to give back to the medium that birthed the source material is uneven, it accomplishes its main, important goal: It will help more people see this wonderful piece of musical theater.

Nov 09

“She Used to Be Mine”: Seeking a Lost Self in “Waitress”

The powerful “She Used To Be Mine” is the first single from Sara Bareilles‘s new album, What’s Inside: Songs From Waitress. Next April “Waitress,” an adaptation of the 2007 non-musical movie of the same name, debuts on Broadway.

Some Important Background: The Movie in Brief

In the dramedy/romance Waitress Keri Russell plays Jenna, a young diner employee who’s unhappily married to an abusive husband. She also happens to be a marvel at making pies and often names them after her bad moods and worries; making them helps raise her spirits. Examples: I Hate My Husband Pie and Earl Murders Me Because I’m Having An Affair Pie.

The screenplay was written by Adrienne Shelly, who never got to know of its success. At the age of 40, before Waitress even made it to the Sundance Film Festival and then to theaters, she was murdered. A construction worker in her building, to whom she’d complained about bothersome noise, was found responsible. He’d hurt her in an altercation, then staged what at first seemed to be a suicide by hanging.

Mick LaSalle, San Francisco Chronicle: “Shelly was not just someone who happened to make a likable little movie. Like the film itself, she was seriously good, and her tragic and almost unthinkably sad murder was an incalculable loss.”

Notably, Shelly plays one of Jenna’s waitress friends in the film. The trailer:

The Musical Adaptation

The newest “Waitress” debuted this past summer at the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Bareilles performed its songs in the studio for the album released last week.

At the point at which “She Used to Be Mine” is sung by the lead character she still has the abusive spouse and now is pregnant. That “she” is actually her. Basically, How did she (I) get so disconnected from who she (I) used to be? 

The Lyrics of “She Used to Be Mine” (Genius.com)

It’s not simple to say
That most days I don’t recognize me
That these shoes and this apron, that place and its patrons
Have taken more than I gave them
It’s not easy to know
I’m not anything like I used be, although it’s true
I was never attention’s sweet center
I still remember that girl

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
She is gone, but she used to be mine

It’s not what I asked for
Sometimes life just slips in through a back door
And carves out a person and makes you believe it’s all true
And now I’ve got you
And you’re not what I asked for
If I’m honest, I know I would give it all back
For a chance to start over and rewrite an ending or two
For the girl that I knew

Who’ll be reckless, just enough
Who’ll get hurt, but who learns how to toughen up
When she’s bruised and gets used by a man who can’t love
And then she’ll get stuck
And be scared of the life that’s inside her
Growing stronger each day ’til it finally reminds her
To fight just a little, to bring back the fire in her eyes
That’s been gone, but used to be mine
Used to be mine

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
She is gone, but she used to be mine

Listen to the Song:

Watch it be performed on Broadway:

Jun 30

“I Choose You”: Luck Versus Skill in Love and Marriage

Tell the world that we finally got it all right
I choose you

Sara Bareilles, “I Choose You”

In love and in marriage, what’s the main ingredient involved in choosing someone—luck or skill?

I believe many would go with luck. After all, we often use or hear the phrases “lucky in love” and “unlucky in love,” but do we ever use “skilled at love” or “unskilled at love”?

Regarding luck, therapist Suzanne Degges-White, PhD, Psychology Today, points out that research may lean against it as a reason people find love.

Research on ‘lucky people’ indicates that the ‘luckiest’ people are those who actively seek to make their own luck. We might describe as ‘lucky’ people who find a $20 bill on the street, get the last item at a great sale, or make the right decision at the right time in a relationship. What separates these folks from those of us who may not consider ourselves as lucky?

Turns out, the people who find money on the street are the very ones who are most likely to be looking for the odd $20 bill blowing along in a parking lot or by the curb.

So, it might be partly semantics, but basically you’re lucky if you’ve made your own luck. It’s because you’ve looked for a good match that you’ve found one.

One might even argue there’s a skill to that.

As there is in knowing whom to choose and why—and then, moreover, in knowing how to keep your relationship going long-term.

The initial picking, it must be noted, may actually start with something short of skill—romantic notions and lust, for example. But if things continue to work out over time because of how you deal with such challenging issues as the ending of the honeymoon phase, unmet expectations, tough times—skill is definitely involved.

So, if you choose someone to be your life partner, also know that, along with your love, you’re also choosing a lot of other things—things that will require certain capabilities. Psychologist Robert Epstein‘s research has found that there are, in fact, “seven essential relationship skills.”

  1. Communication
  2. Conflict resolution
  3. Knowledge of partner
  4. Life skills
  5. Self-management
  6. Sex and romance
  7. Stress management

With this in mind, enjoy the popular video Sara Bareilles has made of her catchy song “I Choose You,” in which she helps two different individuals surprise their partners with marriage proposals. A process, by the way, that evidently also involved real skill (as well as love and motivation and commitment)—and that led to at least one classic WTF response.