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.