The musical `Waitress’ centres on the character of Jenna, a woman trapped in an abusive marriage, who puts her pie baking skills in the diner she works to good use. Allowing her to escape the reality of her life, Jenna invents new recipes that serve as a metaphor of her life (Deep Shit Blueberry Pie and Berry the Bullshit Pie are just two Jenna make during the show). Jenna is also pregnant. Hoping to use her baking skills to win prize money, Jenna aims to enter a pie baking contest and leave her life behind. Jenna in her own words is ‘messy, kind, lonely, reckless, scared, and strong’.
While there are many themes brought forward in this production from American middle-class apathy to its critique of American capitalism, for me the theme of motherhood, funnily enough, struck a chord. As explored in the song “What Baking Can Do” baking is something Jenna learned from her mother as a small child. Now pregnant herself, Jenna fears to have a baby not only because of her abusive husband but because she doesn’t trust she would be the kind of mother she was lucky enough to have had. It can be seen that Jenna has a lack of excitement and disinterest during her pregnancy that indicates that she does not want the baby. When Jenna finally gives birth, she is immediately transformed by motherhood. In a musical that quickly changes scenes before moving on to the next, this turnaround after giving birth may seem inauthentic. For me, this moment presented a woman finding the strength she forgot she had, who now has a reason to use it. Watching the film version, I thought it was a nice little scene. During the stage production, when Sara Bareilles, the actress playing Jenna states ‘Give me my baby’, she took a sharp inward breath when the baby is in her arms. I’m not ashamed to say I had a tear in my eye. The power of the musical! While the show itself has many flaws (I can only recall a handful of melodies), it does provide a positive female representation. Jenna and her co-workers support each other through good and bad decisions. They are allowed to make these choices. With such strong women leading the show, ‘Waitress’ tends to push the men almost to the background. The male characters are not fully rounded, almost caricatures in their development. During the curtain call, I did have one final thought on the show. The audience was filled with `fan girls’ (for the unaware, a group who obsesses over a fictional character or actor) all screaming and hooting throughout the performance. I couldn’t help but wonder if they were cheering for Jenna or for the actress playing her?