It Only Takes a Taste

Last Wednesday I went to my final show of a marathon (for me nowadays) of 7 shows in 2.5 weeks, Waitress. I hadn’t (and still haven’t, though it’s on my queue) seen the movie, hadn’t listened to any of the music, and I don’t know any of Sara Bareilles’ music (maybe a partial lie – I’ve heard, like, one song before), but I heard it was good, and the last row of the mezzanine is super cheap (and actually not awful, take note!). I’d also not yet had the pleasure of seeing Jessie Mueller in a leading role so I was quite excited for that, too. 

I arrived at the theatre to the scent of baked goods (good job, producing team, that was the right choice), immediately became hungry, and took my seat. The rear mezzanine seats at the Brooks Atkinson are not bad at all. It’s not like the St. James where you feel miles above the stage (that’s the balcony, I guess, but still, they’re awful seats). I looked at the cast and only recognized a few of the names in addition to Mueller’s. A cast of unknowns – awesome!

I knew the basic plot of the show – waitress in a redneck town gets knocked up – but not more than that. It’s a pretty typical plot as far as plots about girls getting knocked up in redneck towns go. Abusive husband? Check. Witty group of friends/colleagues? Check. The boss who’s also a semi-father figure/advice giver? Check. A new love interest? Check. 

Jenna (Mueller)’s friends at the diner Dawn (Kimiko Glenn) and Becky (Keala Settle) were both hysterical, and super talented. I realized at intermission that Kimiko is So-So from Orange is the New Black and she has a terrific voice and she’s a great actress. Drew Gehling (who plays Jenna’s new love interest, and her OBGYN, Dr. Pomatter) was just delightful. He was nervously awkward but very genuinely sweet. Dawn’s love interest, Ogie (Christopher Fitzgerald), totally steals every scene he’s in. Give him an honorary Tony Award for comedy or something. 

The show’s conclusion is logical, but disappointing. I guess such is life, too. I really enjoyed the score (good job, Bareilles), as well as the lighting. To be honest, I don’t remember much of the choreography. Side note: the sets are all automated. At the end of the first scene of the second act, an announcement went over the PA system saying they were taking a 10 minute break for technical difficulties. Shortly thereafter we got back on track. #livetheatre

I’m not sure whether it was the short pause in the second act, or the overall length of the show, but although I really enjoyed it, it felt it was 15-20 minutes too long. It definitely worth a visit though, especially if you like Sara Bareilles. 

Last thing: I totally bought the $10 pie-in-a-jar at intermission. You just want some baked goods, any baked goods, after the first act. Nom.

I’d been really slow with getting around to see the newest revival of Les Miserables. Wasn’t it just a few years ago that I was seeing another revival? Oh wait, yes, it was. And listening to the monstrosity that was Nikki James’ voice on the Tonys, I wanted to wait until she was out. BUT I saw this production last Saturday afternoon and I loved it. Still. I saw Les Miserables three or four times as a kid and it was one of my first “favorite” shows. I was looking forward to seeing the new staging but also worried. Les Miserables without a turn table?! WHAT?!

They’ve taken the show and made it a bit more like the movie. But don’t worry – it still clocks it at around 3 hours. I was sort of dreading seeing a three-hour show, because… 90-minutes-no-intermission is the standard for new shows these days so we’ve been spoiled. But I had no trouble sitting through Les Miserables in all of it’s depressing and humorous glory. The cast brought many tiny nuances that I don’t remember noticing from the last production(s) which brought it more to life for me.

Ramin Karimloo, who stole everyone’s heart in the 25th anniversary concert at Marius, was fantastic at Jean Valjean. Except that he looked like a Backstreet Boy in the first few scenes. If he was in jail for 19 years, he went into jail when he was about 5. His voice is fantastic, his acting was fantastic, and he is ripped so they used whatever opportunity they could find to have him take his shirt off – which was very odd for a Valjean to do, but we suffered through.

Nikki M. James, I’m happy to report, only sounds like a bag of dying cats during what you saw on the Tonys (One Day More). Otherwise she’s playful and endearing, and her On My Own is great.

Cassie Levy was fantastic as Fatine. It’s such a small role so that’s unfortunately but I love her and her voice. She is just beautiful and amazing. That’s all I can say.

Keala Settle and Cliff Saunders as the Thenardiers were hilarious, as they should be. No complaints.

Earl Carpenter as Javert, joining Broadway from the London production, was great too. He did was Javert was supposed to do and he didn’t sound like Russell Crowe. We were happy campers.

As much as theatre snobs like myself usually hate projections, they were used sparingly and really added a lot to the show. I thoroughly enjoyed this 3-hour tour-de-france and I could do it again and again if you asked me to.

Put your theatre snobbyness aside, get over the loss of the turntable, and go.