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Waitress at Birmingham Hippodrome - Review

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by ABC Writer (subscribe)
Freelance journalist with a passion for theatre, the arts, food and books.
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Busted singer Matt Willis and Chelsea Halfpenny star
If you think all musicals are romantic saccharine affairs, then think again as Waitress is in town. The show that took the West End by storm turns the expected on its head.

Waitress, Birmingham Hippodrome
Chelsea Halfpenny stars as Jenna in Waitress


This very Millennial tale is a bittersweet story of female empowerment and camaraderie and at Birmingham Hippodrome for a week until Saturday May 21.

Sometimes romantic, often funny and occasionally distressing, it also manages to be heartwarming as it follows three American waitresses working at a diner in a US rustbelt town.

The most downtrodden of them all is Jenna, who doesn't seem to appreciate her amazing talent for baking pies or that her abusive husband is a nasty piece of work.

Through a series of endearing analogies to baking and appropriately named pies, the story of complicated relationships for all three women develops.

Affairs, divorce and domestic abuse aren't the usual ingredients of a musical but this show brings a fresh realism to the genre and because of that, you have no idea where it will lead. There's a welcome unpredictability about it all.

Waitress, Birmingham Hippodrome
Friendships are core to the story in Waitress


Everything is food based even down to the stage curtain featuring a huge latticed cherry pie. Be warned, it will definitely make you hungry and crave a pie as soon as you leave.

Taking the lead as Jenna is Chelsea Halfpenny - niece of actress and Strictly Come Dancing winner Jill Halfpenny. She's got a beautiful voice that suits the folk-style, gentle songs that have a country-blues element. There's a live band on stage that gives extra depth to the wistful soundtrack.

Her sidekicks in the diner are Evelyn Hoskins as quirky Dawn and Wendy Mae Brown as sassy Becky. Their chemistry works well to make this production a success as their supportive friendship is central to everything. It's rooted in the comedy, emotion and music through the 2hour 30 minute musical.

There's more familiar faces with Matt Willis from Busted as a kind of love interest (don't expect the usual romance) and Michael Starke, who Brookside fans will remember as Sinbad. He plays the grouchy yet supportive diner owner Joe, who helps build Jenna's confidence.

Waitress, Birmingham Hippodrome
Tamlyn Henderson as Earl and Wendy Mae Brown as Becky


George Crawford deserves a mention as hilariously awkward Ogie. He makes his romance with Dawn a joy and gets the biggest laughs to add much-needed balance to some of the more sour elements of the plot. While Tamlyn Henderson plays mean husband Earl so well that you want to hiss every time he walks on stage.

This Tony Award-nominated musical is based on a 2007 film of the same name, written by Adrienne Shelly. Yet despite the various male protagonists, it's ultimately the women that are always centre stage.

It may seem to have an alternative storyline to traditional shows but it's ultimately about friendships, hope and believing in yourself - and those ingredients are the basis of many a good musical.

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Why? See hot new musical about female empowerment
When: Until Saturday May 21, 2022
Phone: 0844 338 5000
Where: Birmingham Hippodrome, Hurst Street, Birmingham, B4
Cost: From £28
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