In love with 'Waitress'

So Kates and I saw “Waitress” – the musical – today in Omaha.

As always, there’s a backstory.

Quickly after we began our subscription to Apple music last spring and started binging on new music and stuff we had long wanted but didn’t have in our library, we got a hold of the “Waitress” albums. Sara Bareilles, who I adore – it’s a full-fledged crush, really – wrote the music and released an album of her own recordings of the songs, which I preferred. Kates preferred the Broadway cast recording. Either way, we both found ourselves falling in love with the music and listening to the albums on and off for weeks.

Then a few weeks ago a former student who writes about entertainment in the Des Moines area posted an interview he did with Sara in conjunction with the show’s touring version stopping there.

As often happens in these situations, I immediately searched for the tour schedule and saw it was coming to Omaha this week. Kates and I compared the dates with our calendars and bought a pair of tickets for this afternoon’s matinee. … It also was a wonderful end-of-the-semester treat for me, having gotten past a barrage of final projects this week and the university’s commencement ceremonies yesterday.

We set our alarms for 7:30 this morning to get ready while the girls slept in – a rarity for a Saturday morning. But then again, we were up late last night watching “The Force Awakens” in preparation for seeing “The Last Jedi.”  Kates sent me out to grab some groceries and Starbucks for us at 9 while she tidied up the house. And the babysitters – twin girls who are family friends from our church – arrived around 10.

We’ve had unseasonably warm weather this winter, and it made for a wonderful day to be out and driving. It was a bright, sunny day, and we soaked it in. We took a longer route, taking a full two hours to drive up through southwest Iowa before cutting across to Omaha.

In Omaha, I wanted to introduce Kates to the charm of the Old Market.

We found a public parking lot, and Kates quickly pointed to an appealing brewery across the street. Upstream Brewing Company, and it was awesome. She had the beer battered fish and chips. I had the Brewer’s Pork Sandwich – a fried pork tenderloin medallion with mustard slaw and garlic aioli on a house-baked bun.

With our bellies full and the mild, sunny weather, it was an easy decision to walk the half-dozen or so blocks up to the Orpheum Theater. Inside we took in the ornate vaudeville d├ęcor and then found our seats, a couple rows into the balcony, just off stage left. It’s an intimate theater, and yet I don’t know that we could have had a better view of the action.

The show was, in a word, amazing. From the Omaha World-Herald
Some exceptional performances and sensational sets and lighting finish this confection, which features excellent music and lyrics by Sara Bareilles, songs that are somewhat unconventional for musical theater. Sometimes they’re mere snippets, such as the clever “Club Knocked Up,” a ditty sung with fabulous harmony in cowboy-swing style when Jenna, the title character, learns she’s pregnant. Others are long form show-stoppers, such as “She Used to Be Mine,” Jenna’s compelling ballad.
And yet, not even that review does it justice.

Even after falling in love with the music during the last several months, Kates and I had no clue we were going to enjoy it so much. The music and scenes flow so seamlessly that I never once felt the need to check my program to see how far along the show was.

“Opening Up” and “Bad Idea,” with the band fully on the stage and the background vocalists clapping their hands in circles, were every bit the big numbers we imagined them being and more.

But we didn’t expect to laugh so much, and so hard. There are some hilarious moments in the show, and every character has their share of scene stealing exchanges – from Jenna's comrades at the diner, Becky and Dawn, to Dr. Pomatter and his nurse. Ogie’s introduction in the diner during “Never Ever Getting Rid of Me” was a riot, and “I Didn’t Plan It,” which opens the second act also was a comedic high.

The southern sass of Desi Oakley’s Jenna reminded me of Emma Stone’s Skeeter in “The Help.” … But, oh, did she bring the house down during “She Used to Be Mine.” And when she dismissed Earl, the crowd clapped and shouted him off the stage as if they were Jenna’s best girlfriends, too.

As if the sets weren’t colorful and dazzling enough during the show, the finale – with Jenna’s new diner and a sparkling new sign – was the cherry on top. I was overwhelmed with emotion as the cast sang and danced the reprise of “Opening Up,” and little Lulu bounced around the stage with them. Tears of joy began streaming down my cheeks, and the audience showed its appreciation with an instant standing ovation.

As the house lights came up, Kates and I turned to each other with the biggest smiles on our faces and shared a kiss. … We were so glad we made the trip and got to have that experience today.

If it wasn't for 'Hamilton,' Kates and I sighed as we walked through the lobby ... figuring “Waitress” would have won the Tony last year for Best Musical.

And there’s little doubt we’ll be listening to “Waitress” a lot more this next week.