02nd March, 2017. 1:39pm
I KNOW. Save your judgements. I’ve been listening to Waitress: The Musical’s cast recording for THREE MONTHS straight now. It’s crazy, I know. While the rest of you are probably still so obsessed with everything Hamilton and probably frustrated because you still couldn’t get tickets to the show, here I am going gaga over this other musical that Hamilton was up against during its season. Don’t get me wrong, Hamilton deserves all the praises and awards they got but, I’m just saying, there are other musicals in their season that are just as great that also deserves some love. Waitress is one of those musicals, and that’s partly why I wrote this, so that you can understand why I love Waitress’ cast recording so much (and no, it’s not just because Sara Bareilles wrote the song and lyrics for the show).
For those who doesn’t know about the musical, Waitress is based on the 2007 movie of the same title, written, directed and co-starred by Adrienne Shelly (who passed away before the movie came out), with Keri Russel playing the lead character, Jenna Hunterson. Jenna is a pie extraordinaire who is in a loveless marriage (or as per Sara’s word, “is married to a dick”) and had an unwanted pregnancy by her abusive husband. Working at a pie diner with her two best friends and fellow waitresses, Dawn and Becky, the story of Waitress follows Jenna, who pours out her emotions by inventing delicious pies of her own and serving it at the diner, and her friends in a whirlwind of friendship and finding (and losing) love. It’s about sacrifice, passion, and deciding what matters the most, even if it means leaving someone you once love for good.
I saw the movie once before listening to the entire album, and again several times after obsessing on the cast recording. Like I said, Hamilton is a great musical helmed by none other than Lin-Manuel Miranda, but for a Broadway virgin like Sara Bareilles, Waitress’ cast recording is PHENOMENAL, it makes me so mad that she didn’t win an award for this. It’s not as legendary as Hamilton, which mainly raps the entire show; Waitress sounded more like your classic Broadway show tunes, but the songs are so good you’ll never believe they were written by a “Pop Star.” If you’re familiar with Sara Bareilles’ work then you won’t find this surprising because she has always written songs in a very poetic, story-telling manner, but she definitely turns it up tons of notches higher than she’s ever done before with this one. Just listen to “She Used To Be Mine.”
Being the first song that she’s ever written for the musical, She Used To Be Mine is a song that will speak not only to women, but to anyone who has lost their self, not knowing how they got themselves in that situation in the first place. And these words,
And you’re not what I asked for
If I’m honest, I know
I would give it all back for a chance to start over
And rewrite an ending or two…
Who hasn’t felt that before? I’m not saying I’m biased but I think it’s one of the most beautiful Eleven o’clock numbers I have heard in a long time.
It’s actually so poetic how Sara titled this song, “She Used To Be Mine” when Earl’s song was called “You Will Still Be Mine.” Talking about Earl and Jenna’s backstory, the latter goes “Til the sun don’t shine, you will still be mine.” In the song, Earl made Jenna say that he will be hers “til the end of time” repeating “mine” until the song fades, a clear depiction of him thinking that she’s his property. Of course, he does; she’s his wife, but he also treats her like shit, and that’s what made Jenna lose herself in the process; taking everything in even when she’s hurting inside.
One of the musical’s strongest suit is how they managed to keep a lot of lines from the movie. If you are a big fan of the movie or have seen it prior to watching the musical, you’d probably recognize some familiar lines from where the stage musical was adapted from. One perfect example of this is “You Matter To Me”, which was sung by Jenna and Dr. Pomatter, Jenna’s gynecologist and lover. The song starts with the familiar line from the movie, “I could find the whole meaning of life in those sad eyes,” which actually served as the inspiration for Sara to write the song. While having an affair with someone regardless of whether you are in a loveless marriage or not is wrong, what I love about this particular song is that it doesn’t only speak about Jenna and Dr. Pomatter’s feelings for each another, it also speaks about Jenna’s growing love for her unborn child in a form of a letter to her baby, another set of lines that they got from the movie. In the song, the pair sings:
You matter to me,
Simple and plain and not much to ask from somebody.
You matter to me, I promise you do.
You matter, too.
I promise you do, you’ll see.
You matter to me,
I love how Jessie Mueller (Beautiful: the Carole King Musical, anyone? She just, like, won a Tony for playing Carole King, you know?), who plays Jenna in the show, talks to her baby and wishing for her to someday find someone who will make (her child) feel that she mean so much to that person, like she did with Dr. Pomatter. This sentiment leads to another great song, “Everything Changes,” which is Jenna’s song for her baby after she gave birth to her. Prior to hearing Waitress: the musical’s cast recording, the only show tune I loved that talks about conceiving is “The Story Goes On” from Baby: The Musical, and while I think that song is still more beautiful than the one in Waitress, “Everything Changes” tells about Jenna realizing that her life could turn for the better with the new love in her life. It’s the perfect song to end her old story and start a new one because, as she says in the song, they were “both born today, coz everything changed!”
One more thing Jenna decided to end is her affair with Dr. Pomatter, oh but their song “Bad Idea” is just so good. I love how the pair started the song with “it’s a terrible idea, me and you” and ended it with “let’s make mistakes. Let us say ‘so what’ and make worse what was already pretty bad,” like they know what they were doing is wrong, but it just feels so good to be with each other because they find such comfort and commonality with one another.
Aside from Jenna’s songs, one track from the cast recording that I just love dearly is “Never Ever Getting Rid Of Me,” which was sung by Ogie and played by none other than Christopher Fitzgerald (popularly known for the role of ‘Boq’ in the OBC of Wicked), Dawn’s love interest in the show. To be honest, if you listen closely to the song, you’ll realize how creepy the song actually is because it talks about how “I love you means you’re never, ever, ever getting rid of me.” I can totally hear it play as an anthem for stalkers in psych-thriller films or TV shows someday. But while this song sounded so creepy, especially since Ogie fell in love with Dawn after just being on a date with her for five minutes, somehow, I can understand his sentiment in a weird, twisted way. Maybe he knows Dawn is “the one” the moment he met her. Don’t married people felt that when they met their spouses or something?
And then our quirky, shy and nerdy girl, Dawn, also sings her heart out in a song called “When He Sees Me,” which she sang before her blind date with Ogie. As someone who loves the consistency (more like stagnancy) in her life, Dawn expressed her woes with meeting someone for the fear of not liking her back for who she really is. I love this song so much because I feel like we’ve all been there one way or another and, again, Sara wrote the lyrics perfectly:
If, when he knows me, he’s only disappointed.
What if I give myself away to only get it given back?
I’m scared of breaking open.
But still I can’t help from hoping
To find someone to talk to,
Who likes the way I am.
Someone who, when he sees me,
Wants to again.
I mean. Anyone who is hoping to find the right person can certainly relate to this entire song; the fear of finding someone who you aren’t sure will like you back, so you simply keep your walls up and avoid feeling things.
Last, but certainly not the least, one number that speaks to me so much about this musical is the song “A Soft Place to Land”, which is a song that Jenna, Dawn and Becky sings the first time they baked a pie together before Dawn’s unexpected date (with Ogie). What I love about this song is how Sara wrote nuggets of wisdom about the art of dreaming and holding on to that dream. In the song, it said:
But dreams are elusive
The kind we’ve gotten used to is nothing I can feel, nothing I can hold, nothing I can have, nothing that I know.
Dreams, they come and they go.
But hold them and keep them,
And know that you need them.
When you’re breaking point’s all that you have,
A dream is a soft place to land.
I actually didn’t understand this song until I searched for the lyrics when I was about to put the songs in my iPod that I get to appreciate how beautifully written this song was. It was so positive and so creative how this wisdom was incorporated into baking. It’s just so beautiful.
Now, I have seen clips of the show (Thank you, YouTube!) and I love them dearly. I’m not saying I recommend everyone to go see Waitress at Brooks Atkinson Theatre, but you should definitely go buy tickets see the show before the incomparable and super talented Jessie Mueller exits the show on March 26. You won’t regret it, I promise. She, and the rest of the cast, are so good! I hear they sell pies that you can eat inside the theater, plus, the theater SMELLS LIKE PIE! I mean, what musical would actually encourage you to eat inside the theatre while watching the show? (And don’t say because people does it all the time. EATING INSIDE THE THEATRE WHILE WATCHING A PERFORMANCE IS UNETHICAL. THIS IS NOT THE MOVIE THEATER, PEOPLE!) Plus, I know Hamilton is probably still sold out and that tickets are SUPER EXPENSIVE, so go see Waitress instead. Besides, Waitress is the only other musical (second to Hamilton, of course) from the 2015-2016 season that was able to recoup their capitalization cost less than a year since it opened on Broadway. They even sold $1.2 million the day Sara Bareilles announced she was taking over the lead once Jessie Mueller departs from the show, so that should count for something. And while you’re at it, go see other musicals as well that also deserve some love: Dear Evan Hansen, School of Rock, The Color Purple, or if you like the classics, go see Lion King instead or everyone’s favorite (including mine), Wicked. It’s worth your money and time, and it’s better than bad reality TV (or the circus that is the government).
PS: Any song you want me to dissect? Let me know and I’ll give them a try!