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Playhouse Square’s production of ‘Waitress’ is the perfect recipe for fun

“As easy as pie” “As American as apple pie” “Keep your fork…there’s pie!”

One of the most iconic emblems of our American culture is a simple pastry dish that at some time everyone has learned to bake in some form or another (no matter how unskilled they are in the kitchen). No doubt about it, pies are baked love. They are the ultimate comfort food especially when life has turned on us. Pie is also the central theme of the Broadway musical Waitress that is kicking off its national tour in the Connor Palace on Playhouse Square in Cleveland, Ohio.

Waitress has music and lyrics by Sara Bareilles, book by Jessie Nelson and original choreography by Lorin Latarro and is directed by Diane Paulus and is the first Broadway show to have the top four creative spots filled by women. The show is based on a movie by the same name that was written by Adrienne Shelly.

Jenna Hunterson (Desi Oakley is the chief pie baker and waitress at Joe’s Diner in the southern heartland of America who is trapped in a loveless marriage with Earl (Nick Baily). Every morning she bakes 26 pies for her loyal group of steady customers as well as a special “theme pie” named and created from whatever situation or mood she finds herself in at the time.

Jenna is serving her regular customer, Joe (Larry Marshall) who is a crusty old man who owns half the town including the diner when suddenly she feels ill and rushes to the ladies room. Her two waitress comrades, Dawn (Lenne Klingaman) and Becky (Charity Angel Dawson) follow her and insist she take a pregnancy test right there. The test comes out positive as Jenna declares that she does not want a baby and wants to leave Earl who later stops by the diner to deride her for not making enough money.

Jenna goes in for her first pre-natal checkup where she meets Dr. Jim Pomatter who has replaced Jenna’s doctor that she has had since birth. Jenna is not happy with the change and tells the doctor that she is not happy having this baby but still gives the doctor the pie she had brought. Dr. Pomatter has sworn off sugar for years but after Jenna leaves he gives the pie a small taste and ends up finishing it off by himself.

Back at the diner, Jenna’s pregnancy secret has spread to the manager Cal (Ryan G. Dunkin) and to old Joe who suggest she enter a regional pie baking contest that has a huge payoff prize which would set her up with her own pie shop. Meanwhile, Dawn (who has never had a date) has put out a profile on a web dating site. The two waitresses help her prepare for her “five minute date” as her nerves nearly get the best of her.

Jenna begins hiding money for the pie contest entry fee, Earl loses his job at the construction company, Dawn has her “five minute date” show up at the diner professing his undying love for her, Becky is caught with Cal “in flagrante delicto” even though they are both married to other people as Jenna begins an affair with her gynecologist.

This superb cast brings an enormous amount of talent to the stage. Each actor does an excellent job as their various characters and the singing is top notch. Of very special note is Jeremy Morse as Ogie (Dawn’s beau) who takes a minor role and with sheer talent magnifies it into something absolutely delightful. When he is on the stage your eyes are on him and him alone as he sings, dances and cavorts his way into your heart. Desi Oakley as Jenna brings a special warmth to the role as she navigates life’s chuckholes with love and humor.

Nick Baily as Earl is the man we love to hate (he got the least applause at the curtain call) and it takes a great actor who is able to get people to loathe him in such a short time. Bryan Fenkart as Dr. Pomatter has a boyish charm that increases his sex appeal as the show goes on. Charity Angel Dawson is hilarious as Becky as she verbally abuses Cal. Lenne Klingaman is Dawn complete with the snorting laugh that had everyone in the audience laughing along. Larry Marshall as old Joe does a superb turn in both acting and singing as he becomes Jenna’s surrogate father.

Although a musical, this show is ripe with adult situations and there are some language issues. It is strongly suggested not to bring the youngsters to this performance.

This is a well told story with tailor made songs that while not memorable will leave you with a pleasing overall effect to ride home with. There is drama, romance, comedy, suspense and pathos all carefully mixed together. It is in short a perfect recipe for an enjoyable night out at the theater.

The Playhouse Square production of Waitress will be on stage through November 5, 2017 in the Connor Palace at Playhouse Square. Tickets may be purchased online by going to, by calling (216) 241-6000 or by stopping by the Playhouse Square Box Office located in the outer lobby of the State Theatre.

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Who is Mark Horning?

Over the course of my life I have worked a variety of jobs including newspapers, retail camera sales and photography. Eight years ago I embarked on yet another career as writer. This included articles concerning sports and cultural events in Cleveland, Ohio as well reviews of the many theatrical productions around town. These days are spent photographing professional dance groups, theater companies and various galas and festivals as well as attending various stage performances and posting reviews about them.  

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