Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.

National Tour
Review by Susan Berlin | Season Schedule

Also see Susan's report on 2018 Helen Hayes Awards and her reviews of The Invisible Hand, The Crucible and Titus Andronicus

Waitress, whose national tour is now at the National Theatre in Washington, is a sweet and entertaining confection that stays on a low boil most of the time but has breakout moments of joy, well served by Sara Bareilles' pop score.

Director Diane Paulus keeps the action moving constantly—even the pieces of Scott Pask's sectional set wheel on and offstage, sometimes carrying the six musicians led by Jenny Cartney at the piano—in the story of Jenna (Desi Oakley), a diner waitress and intuitive pie baker trying to make her way through life with the mantra of "Sugar, butter, flour." She lives in the small Southern town where she was born; she feels trapped in her marriage to controlling Earl (Nick Bailey), who takes her earnings and is relentlessly jealous of her other interests; and she's unexpectedly pregnant, which brings her into contact with appealing Dr. Pomatter (Bryan Fenkart).

One conceit of Jessie Nelson's book, adapted from Adrienne Shelly's screenplay for the 2007 film, is that Jenna learned baking from her now-deceased mother (Grace Stockdale) and has an ability to create a totally new pie for the diner each day. This seems like a touch of magical realism (since people fall in love with her pies), but the show remains gentle and not overwhelming—with one exception referenced below.

Oakley provides charm, an engaging presence, and a radiant voice, while Fenkart is adorably awkward, and Bailey is stuck in a thankless role. Larry Marshall offers solid support as the cantankerous owner of the diner, along with roof-shaking Charity Angél Dawson as a fellow waitress and Ryan G. Dunkin as the no-nonsense diner cook.

When Ogie (Jeremy Morse) barrels into the diner the day after a brief date with Jenna's shy coworker Dawn (Lenne Klingaman) and declares his undying love for her in song, the pace speeds up and the production achieves greatness. (Ken Billington's lighting design may get brighter, but even if it doesn't, it seems that the stage is glowing during this number, and costume designer Suttirat Anne Larlarb has done her most amusing work for the couple.)

The National Theatre
May 15th - June 3rd, 2018
Book by Jessie Nelson
Music and lyrics by Sara Bareilles
Based upon the motion picture written by Adrienne Shelly
Jenna: Desi Oakley
Cal: Ryan G. Dunkin
Dawn: Lenne Klingaman
Becky: Charity Angél Dawson
Joe: Larry Marshall
Earl: Nick Bailey
Mother: Grace Stockdale
Father: Jim Hogan
Nurse Norma: Maiesha McQueen
Dr. Pomatter: Bryan Fenkart
Ogie: Jeremy Morse
Francine: Kyra Kennedy
Lulu: Alexa M. Lueck or Eva Pieja
Ensemble: Mark Christine, Jim Hogan, Donterrio Johnson, Kyra Kennedy, Maiesha McQueen, Gerianne PĂ©rez, Grace Stockdale
Directed by Diane Paulus
Choreography by Lorin Latarro
The National Theatre, 1321 Pennsylvania Ave. N.W.
Washington, DC
Ticket Information: 1-800-447-7400 or or
For more information on the tour, visit