Sunday, 24 July 2016

CD Review: Waitress (Original Broadway Cast Recording 2016)

“I feel something needs to change"

It’s funny how your relationship to a show can change so dramatically. When I first heard Sara Bareilles’ concept album for her musical adaptation of Waitress, I thought it was pleasant without being particularly memorable. And whilst seeing it on Broadway, my mind got preoccupied with what I found to be pretty big issues in the book to the exclusion of pretty much everything else. 

But getting the cast recording in my hand and spending a rainy afternoon just listening to it over and over, I realised I had missed out on just how musically special it is. The lushness of the harmonies flesh out the songs in the most gorgeous way imaginable and somehow, it feels easier ignore the apparently lifelong questionable decision-making of our heroine and her lack of agency.

Instead, the focus falls more gently on the luscious soundscape - from the intoned beginnings of “sugar, butter, flour” that open up ‘What’s Inside’ and then echo throughout the score, through the delicate beauty of Jessie Mueller, Kimiko Glenn and Keala Settle’s hushed harmonising on songs like ‘A Soft Place To Land’ that are as smooth as cake batter, to Mueller’s deliciously sweet but restrained duet with Drew Gehling on ‘You Matter To Me’.

Mueller channels the conflicted energy of the titular Jenna perfectly, building up to the quiet storm of the climactic ‘She Used To Be Mine’, one of those moments of sheer perfection, but Bareilles’ score has its lighter moments too, especially with her male characters. Christopher Fitzgerald’s indefatigable Ogie has lots of fun whether in ‘Never Ever Getting Rid Of Me’ or ‘I Love You Like A Table’, and Dakin Matthews’ Joe gets to dispense fatherly wisdom in the country-tinged ‘Take It From An Old Man’.

So now I’m thoroughly in love with Waitress and really want to see it again. Let’s hope those rumours of a West End transfer next week are rooted in some semblance of truth!

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