Bear with me while I review Waitress, and please note that the first word in this sentence is more animal than vegetable. I am determined not to assail you with pie metaphors or similes and especially to spare you sordid sexual plays on pie. No, I didn’t sniff the pie aroma machine in the lobby, and now vow to praise the diner musical on firmer ground than the show’s creatively named pies ranging from “My Eggs Betrayed Me Pie” to one about hanky-panky with the gynecologist pie.
Put simply, we didn’t get to eat the pies but we devoured a full plate of comic characters and lovely music. (Yes, that’s sort of a culinary reference but not pie-specific.)
What makes this musical click starts with the direction of Diane Paulus and the music of Sara Bareilles, plus a really appealing cast led by Desi Oakley as Jenna, the waitress who bakes all those pies and winds up with a bun in the oven.
And it continues with the comedic touches so typical of Paulus, topped by the manic antics of Jeremy Morse as Ogie, the role that won Waitress its only Tony among a bunch of nominations.
The other two waitresses, Lennie Klingaman and Charity Angel Dawson, won their share of laughs and even the gynecologist and his nurse were funny.
Wait a second. Maybe I’m avoiding the pies mainly because we walked into the Orpheum greeted by a huge lattice-crusted cherry pie on a curtain covering the entire proscenium. And maybe that started me wondering if they’d be passing out little pies.
Well, they didn’t, but what followed was appetizing and satisfying, leaving us filled but not pie-eyed. (Okay, forgive me, I broke my vow.)
You probably won’t go home singing Sara’s tunes but they serve the story well and range widely from such novelties as Ogie’s “Never Ever Getting Rid of Me” to Jenna’s “She Used to be Mine.” Larry Marshall, as Joe, the diner customer played by Andy Griffith in the movie, finds the most pleasing balance between comedy and a richer character, adding the appealing “Take It From an Old Man” to the vocal array.
If there’s a semi-serious complaint about the story by Jessie Nelson it’s that one gets a little impatient with Jenna for not splitting sooner from her pathetic husband Earl (Jim Hogan subbing on Tuesday). She waits until she’s giving birth to their child in the hospital before sending him packing. The audience cheers and nobody’s rude enough to shout “It’s about damn time.”
But we can’t blame Desi Oakley for the script and we can thank her for so athletically flashing her legs in the gynecologist’s office and for far more substantial vocal and acting chops that keep us charmed by her story.
Waitress runs through Sunday as part of the Omaha Performing Arts Broadway Across America series with performances at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday, and 1:30 and 7 p.m. Sunday. Tickets starting at $35 are available by calling 402.345.0606 or by visiting ticketomaha.com.