Amarillo Broadway Spotlight Series presents “Waitress” (Celebrity Attractions)
You don’t normally want to leave a pie baking overly long, but the two-year delay for this weekend’s staging of “Waitress” is worth the wait.
Civic Amarillo’s Broadway Spotlight Series originally scheduled this romantic comedy, with a book by Jessie Nelson and music by pop star Sara Bareilles, for June 2020. But it finally arrives for performances at 7:30 p.m. Friday and 2 p.m. Saturday in the Amarillo Civic Center Complex Auditorium, 401 S. Buchanan St.
I saw the production May 11 at the Winspear Opera House in Dallas, with a ticket provided by Celebrity Attractions (though my opinions, as ever, are my own).
The cast, there and here, is headed by the dynamic Jisel Soleil Ayon as Jenna, the titular waitress, who’s stuck in a rut only made worse by an unexpected pregnancy. She’s got gal-pal support from fellow pie-slingers Becky (Dominique Kent, sensational) and Dawn (Gabriella Marzetta, adorable), but mostly, Jenna has her pie-making abilities keeping her sane.
She needs all the help she can get, trapped as she is in an abusive marriage with the astoundingly awful Earl (Shawn W. Smith). Her grumpy but kind-hearted favorite customer Joe (Michael R. Douglass) helps some, but not as much as the new gynecologist in town, Dr. Pomatter (David Socolar).
The musical generally keeps everything light, from the upbeat “Opening Up” at the start of the show through the silly names Jenna gives her pies (“Betrayed by My Eggs Pie,” for one) and the goofy secondary romance between Dawn and nerdy Ogie (Brian Lundy, a scene-stealer). The chemistry between Ayon and Socolar brings slightly unexpected heat to their illicit romance, made more understandable by the nice-guy energy generated by Socolar.
But there’s a definite undercurrent of sadness in Ayon’s performance, not to mention the menace brought by Smith. The balance wasn’t always nailed when I saw it, but juggling domestic abuse, an affair and the plot needs of a romantic comedy is tough business. (To see it nailed more perfectly, seek out the late director Adrienne Shelly’s film that inspired the musical.)
Still, the performances (led by Ayon’s melancholic star turn) and Bareilles’ well-calibrated tunes make this a must-see.