I attempted to watch Adrienne Shelly’s 2007 film, “Waitress” during my sophomore year in college. It was a self-proclaimed “movie night” and my roommates had each selected a film to watch that evening. “Waitress” was the second movie of the evening, and to be perfectly honest, I can’t even remember which movie we watched before popping the rental disc into the DVD player.
One of my roommates had selected “Waitress” because she had read a few reviews, and it was said to be a wonderful movie. We prepared to watch Keri Russell play the main character, Jenna, on a small television in our Afton Manors dorm room on Wartburg College’s campus.
We made it about 30 minutes in, and the general feeling of the room was dislike. I am not one to stop a movie after such a short amount of a time, however, “Waitress” wasn’t holding anyone’s attention, myself included. We stopped the film and moved on. I was only 20 at the time, and I believe it was the wrong time for me to dive into a movie such as this. Unfortunately, the movie has never made it onto my watch list since, and I haven’t given the film much thought since.
When it was announced that “Waitress” the musical was going to be at the Des Moines Civic Center this season, my past experience with the film came to the forefront of my memory. I knew I should have made an effort to go back and watch the whole movie, but by curtain time Tuesday, I hadn’t seen the movie in full.
Despite my failed attempt to watch the movie a decade ago, the musical adaptation had me fully engrossed from the first notes to the final bow. Jenna is a waitress at Joe’s Pie Diner in the great American South. She is the best pie baker in town, making dozens of pies fresh every day — plus a special one of her own creation, usually with an odd mix of ingredients and a funny name. There are several moments in the show where Jenna starts thinking in pie recipes, literally. This was the part of the movie that had me shutting it off. However, I now understand Jenna uses it as a coping mechanism when something bad or good happens in her life.
She’s had a rough life: living with a drunk, abusive father; dealing with her mom’s death; and then being stuck in a loveless marriage with a man who takes everything from her. At the beginning of the show, Jenna discovers she’s pregnant. It is something she neither planned nor wanted with her husband Earl. The rest of the show follows her as she has to decide what a baby will mean in her life.
The musical is loaded with witty characters and catchy tunes that make the show enjoyable from start to finish. I have heard a few of the songs before Tuesday night’s performance. Sara Bareilles wrote the score for the show, and I have always enjoyed her music. What she wrote worked perfectly for the story.
My favorite part of the performance was watching Desi Oakley own the part of Jenna. It’s her story, and she plays it beautifully. Her powerful voice soars from the stage as she belts out each heartfelt lyric. However, pies are made up of many ingredients. Charity Angel Dawson and Lenne Klingaman are the flour and butter to Oakley’s sugar. They play fellow waitresses and best friends Becky and Dawn, respectively. The trio brings the whole show together to make the story as irresistible as one of Jenna’s pies.
Try a little slice for yourself and go see “Waitress” at the Civic Center. The show will be in town through Sunday.
Contact Pam Rodgers