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REVIEW: Enjoying Waitress is as Easy as Pie (Ordway)

Jisel Soleil Ayon in the national touring production of Waitress: The Musical, now playing at the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts in St. Paul, MN. Photo by Jeremy Daniel.

If you have a sweet tooth for beautiful music, powerful stories, and a lot of sugar, then Waitress: The Musical is just the show for you. This Broadway hit opened last night at the Ordway in St. Paul as part of their Broadway @ The Ordway programming. The touring cast took to the Music Theater – the Ordway’s main stage space – with gusto, enthralling the audience. 

If you’re looking for a musical with lots of sparkle and spectacle, with large dance numbers and a huge chorus, then this may not be for you. However, if you love musicals that aren’t afraid to touch on real-life issues, diving deep into the human experience with stunning music as the main event, then this show is just what the doctor ordered. The magic in Waitress comes not from the latest in projection technology, glittering costumes, or magical sets, but instead from talented actors who bare their hearts and souls through the music. The product left me breathless at the sheer emotion and talent on display. 

Meet-cute: David Socolar and Jisel Soleil Ayon. Both of their characters are married…to other people…in Waitress. Photo by Jeremy Daniel.

A standout feature of Waitress: The Musical is its music and lyrics written by Grammy Award-winner Sara Bareilles. (Bareilles herself has even performed its lead role of Jenna on Broadway.) She would be proud of the cast’s stellar musical chopsand how they bring her music to life. A clear standout in the cast was Jisel Soleil Ayon, who plays the lead role of Jenna. Ayon has yet to make her Broadway debut, but based on last night’s performance, I would not be surprised if this is in her near future. After her performances of “What Baking Can Do” and “She Used to Be Mine”, all I could do was whisper “Wow!” in awe of her abundant talent. 

Ayon is not the only musical powerhouse in this talented cast. David Socolar, playing Dr. Pomatter, has a lovely tenor voice that blends to perfection with Ayon’s. Dominique Kent and Gabriella Marzetta, playing Jenna’s closest friends, do wonderful character work with their solo moments, although my favorite is a simple song called “A Soft Place to Land” where the three weave complex harmonies around each other in a lullaby-esque style. The love that these women feel for one another is palpable as all three care for and share with one another. Such caring feminine friendships displayed onstage are refreshing and beautiful. 

 

While the musical deals with intense topics such as abuse, poverty, and infidelity, it is by no means a downer. The script bursts with comedy, often with witty and downright silly dialogue. The hilarious Brian Lundy wins the heart of the audience with his clown-like performance of Ogie, who pursues and seduces

Shawn W. Smith and Jisel Soleil Ayon in Waitress. Photo by Jeremy Daniel.

the anxious and unsure Dawn. While his song “Never Ever Getting Rid of Me” can be problematic in many ways, he plays it so innocently and adorably that I was able to look past my feelings of discomfort and enjoy his performance, laughing along with the rest of the audience. 

A final word of advice, if you are able to make it out to the delicious musical, buy some pie ahead of time so you can enjoy a slice when you get home. You’ll thank me later!


Waitress: The Musical continues at the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts in Saint Paul, MN through March 13th. Tickets priced $44-$122. Masks, proof of vaccination or negative Covid test are required; information on the most up-to-date COVID-19 policies can be found on the Ordway’s website.

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