I needed saving

and a good mistake needed making

—“I Didn’t Plan It”

That little couplet sums up this heartwarming show called Waitress. If you saw the 2007 movie of the same title, this is it, but with songs, so, better. (In my opinion, every story is better with songs.) It’s a story about what makes us human, namely, making mistakes.

It’s set in Joe’s Pie Diner, somewhere that sounds awfully Texan to me. The main character, Jenna, has made a series of mistakes including this one: “I do stupid things when I drink, like sleep with my husband.” He’s terrible, and when Jenna becomes pregnant, she dreams of running away from him, if only she could afford to. Her plan is to enter a pie-baking contest, where the prize would be enough money to buy her and her baby a new life. Because there is one thing she is really, really good at, and that’s making pies, a gift she inherited from her mama.

Each pie she creates is a slice of her story, concealed in a pie: Getting out of the Mud Pie, A Little Wild Wild Berry Pie, and my favorite, Betrayed by My Eggs Pie.

How does Jenna respond to mistake No. 1? By rushing headlong into mistake No. 2. Ultimately, her mistakes save her.

As does her kindness. She’s always kind to cranky Old Joe, who owns the diner and eats there every day. No one else will wait on him; Jenna does. It matters in ways she could never have foreseen.

The show, which centers around Jenna and her two female friends at the diner, has a feminine perspective. The music was composed by Sara Bareilles, and the film was written (and co-starred) Adrienne Shelly. This information about Shelly comes from the playbill: “…she conceived the film while pregnant with her daughter Sophie (Lulu in the film), for whom she wrote it as a ‘love letter’ in just two weeks.” Ultimately, the movie and the show are just that, a love letter. Shelly was murdered shortly after completing the film. The fact that this story, this tribute to motherhood, has gone on to the Great White Way, probably someday to a theater near you, well, it really is like something was birthed.



  1. Thanks for this — also, I keep meaning to tell you that I enjoyed reading Susan Olasky’s praise for your book (in World Magazine)!

  2. Megan, I remember this film–I so enjoyed Kerri Russell in the lead role. I had no idea about the fate of the playwright-such a tragedy. My.
    I will agree–everything’s better with songs.

  3. Judith Lickteig says

    Omgosh! I had not heard of this film. However, your review took my breath away just now!

    Of course, you are correct! Every little thing is better with songs!

    • Thanks, Judith. In the film, the husband is more scary-terrible. In the musical, you get more of a sense of how these two people got together in the first place (through a duet, naturally).

      And Jody, Adrienne Shelly was in the film. She was Dawn, the nerdy waitress who is wooed by Ogie.