Review: Waitress @ Mayflower Theatre

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80%
80
Heartwarming

Lead actress Chelsea Halfpenny gave an outstanding performance in this captivating, witty and moving production.

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Hot off the West End, smash-hit musical Waitress is playing at Southampton’s Mayflower Theatre as part of its UK Tour this week.

Featuring the irreverently witty and diverse soundtrack from Grammy award-winning Sara Bareilles, Waitress follows Jenna Hunterson (Chelsea Halfpenny), a waitress from the American South determined to bake herself a new life for her and her baby, far away from her abusive husband, Earl (Tamlyn Henderson). Seamlessly blending together the sensitive subject matter of domestic abuse with humourous characters and songs, Waitress does a fantastic job of showing how platonic, romantic, and familial love can heal the wounds inflicted by Jenna’s husband, and help her to find strength through what she loves – baking.

The Mayflower’s production of the show benefits from its inheritance of the fantastic West End set which uses the rural South-backdrop, with lighting changes to fit the mood, to transport the audience instantly to small-town Indiana. Props are used excellently as part of the choreography in the fabulous musical numbers, and the simple sets create an intimacy that varies in its degree of comfort. Particularly striking was the warm safety created by the set of Jenna’s doctor’s surgery – Dr Pomatter (Busted’s Matt Jay Willis) – contrasted with the cold, claustrophobic simplicity of her abusive home.

Standouts of the cast doubtless included Halfpenny, who showcased a smooth control over her impressive vocal range, particularly during showstopper number ‘She Used To Be Mine’. Halfpenny did a wonderful job of carrying the musical numbers she shared with Willis, who, despite playing a charming and funny Dr. Pomatter, is certainly a pop singer and not a musical theatre one.

Having shined on the West End, Evelyn Hoskin’s Dawn was every inch the loveable character she should be and was complemented perfectly by the show’s comic relief Ogie (George Crawford), who can be forgiven for slips in accent for having the audience in fits of laughter from his first appearance. Wendy Mae Brown wowed with her rendition of ‘I Didn’t Plan It’ when she opened Act 2 as Becky, and Henderson perfected the balance between a detestable brute and a (un)loveable idiot the audience understood they were laughing at and not with.

Despite some discrepancies in the accent, a couple of missed cues and variations in cast members’ vocal skills which leave this production a star shy of its West End quality, Waitress is well worth a visit. Audiences leave on a high having been moved, amused, and entertained profusely.

Waitress is playing at The Mayflower Theatre from Wednesday 25 May to Saturday 27 May, tickets can be purchased online here.

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