London theatre-land is wonderful and as you can probably tell, there is nothing I love more than a good play or musical. However every once in a while, I accidentally discover a soundtrack to a show that isn’t available in the UK. In hindsight I should probably stop watching the Tony Awards. So this week, I’ve fallen in love with the soundtrack of Sara Bareilles’ “Waitress”. Unfortunately, this golden nugget of a show came along in the same year as Lin Manuel’s Miranda’s masterpiece “Hamilton” which has literally gone down as the best musical of all time. Although “Waitress” snagged four nominations, and rightly so, this meant the show lost out on every award.

Based on the 2007 movie of the same name this is the story of a young baker, Jenna, who is stuck in an unhappy marriage. Just as a local pie baking contest comes along which could be the big break she needs, Jenna finds herself pregnant. The new musical is comprised of an all female creative team which (I believe) is the first of its kind. I’m not sure whether it was the female team that brought this about, but what strikes me the most is how real the cast looks. Everyone is a real person, just as they should be. As all shows should be. A bunch of extraordinarily talented, ordinary human beings of all shapes and sizes, ages and ethnic groups. If the theatre can’t be honest and representative then what the hell can be? Jolly good. I’ve got the diversity rant out of the way.

Whilst I’m praying for “Waitress” to make a London transfer, I already feel like I’ve seen it half a dozen times. Much to my disappointment, the distance of 3,450 miles between Surrey and Broadway means that I am unable to review the show as of yet. But purely because I needed to write down how I feel, I am resorting to second best: a soundtrack review of some of the best pieces from the musical.

“So pure so electric, so sure so connected.”

A soft place to land

Opening Up sets the backdrop for this story in a diner in the American South. Immediately with an upbeat sound, characterisation begins to take place. Jessie Mueller who plays Jenna, starts to mould the story with a musical tone that resembles liquid gold. Absolutely stunning. In fact, Mueller’s perfectly pitched southern twang is reminiscent of her previous role as Carol King in the musical “Beautiful”.

“I do stupid things when I’m drunk… like sleep with my husband”

The Negative

Mueller’s voice combined with the composing genius means the soundtrack is both powerful and vulnerable, heart-breaking and comedic. Only Bareilles could write a song about peeing on a stick and make it so catchy. The Negative is inevitably one of the more comical songs in the show, and Bareilles’ timing is absolutely faultless. Her musical score gets even better with the song It only takes a taste. This is the first duet between Jenna and Dr Pomatter- the leading lady’s love interest- where awkwardness and chemistry are balanced perfectly.

“If pies were books, yours would be Shakespeare’s letters”

It only takes a taste

In contrast to these are more subtle songs including A soft place to land and one of Jenna’s big solos of the show, She used to be mine. With a simple acoustic tone, A soft place to land has a resonance that can be likened to the 2007 musical “Once”. Subtle harmonies allow the vocals of the three female leads to interweave seamlessly like sugar and melted butter.

I first came across the musical a week or so ago whilst watching the 2016 Tony Awards ceremony. Jessie Mueller’s performance made me fall instantly in love. I was reduced to floods of tears, feeling the urge to climb into the screen and give her a hug. Jenna reminisces her younger self whilst deciphering through her unexpected pregnancy in the stunning song She Used To Be Mine. Here, Mueller’s Fantine-esque brokenness leaves her so vulnerable, and combined with Bareillies’ honesty, the song is utterly heart-wrenching. For me as an audience member (or listener in this case) nakedness and raw emotion equals strength. There is nothing more bold than when an actor or actress tears themself apart on stage, leaving themself exposed. Essentially, fragility is strength in its purest form. Strong characters are complex and tangible; that’s what makes them relatable and consequently, believable.

*Spoiler Alert*

As the show draws to a close, Jenna holds her newborn daughter and sings Everything Changes. This piece captures the beauty of maternal love, and ties the story together excellently.

“We were both born today”

Everything Changes

The audience has truly been taken on an emotional journey with Jenna. The soundtrack alone allows the listener to step into another human being’s shoes, and share a snippet of their journey. Whether that be in a musical or a play, in a book or a film, this is the true purpose of story-telling. Even if it is only for a short while.

Published by Meg Edwards