“Waitress” brought a little Broadway to Northern Indiana

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Fort Wayne, Ind. – – The Embassy Theater, 125 W. Jefferson Blvd., continued its 2021-2022 Broadway season with two shows of “Waitress,” on April 5 and 6, 2022. “Waitress” is a Tony Award-winning musical about women working a job that does not always inspire respect, but their sisterhood, their emotional turmoil making difficult choices, are made obvious and drive the plot. In addition, powerhouse singing that would do justice to any rock or r&b track fills the production. The lyrics and music are by singer-songwriter Sara Bareilles.

Setting the stage for “Waitress”

The splendor of the Embassy’s interior was not completely overshadowed by the quirky set of “Waitress.” The heavy velvet curtains were pushed back to reveal a stage-wide panel that was designed to be a giant cherry pie. Bookending the stage were two columns with small, rotating metal shelves, like the kind slices of pie would be presented on.

The show began with a series of cellphone sounds. Those were followed by a female singing voice that reminded people to turn off their cellphones so that the people around them would not hate them. The audience responded with laughter. After that, the show was off. The audience was captivated by the humor, the singing, the physical comedy. And when the owner of “Joe’s Pie Diner” passes away and leaves the establishment to the waitress who is having to make the most difficult decisions, who is largely thought to be his only friend, audiences breathed a collective gasp.

The set changes were often seamless, even though the audience could see stagehands sneaking on to the dark stage to create different settings. The musicians were tucked into the right-facing corner of the stage. For one song, the double-bass player came down, toward the audience and played to accompany a solo. The effect was an intimacy that had permeated the entire evening.

The world of “Waitress”

What some audience members in Indiana might not have known about the show was that it is set in Indiana, somewhere off Highway 27. For people who live in the area, it is easy to imagine a place like Joe’s existing in the area that used to include Southtown Mall, Atz’s Ice Cream Shop, and Renaissance Restaurant.

But, there are few stereotypes here. The cast is multi-racial. Their interests are varied and esoteric. All of this made the almost-packed house lean forward. The standing ovation felt automatic, an understood reaction to a musical that had thoroughly transfixed and momentarily transformed a varied audience.

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Dodie Miller-Gould is a native of Fort Wayne, Indiana who lives in New York City where she studies creative nonfiction at Columbia University. She has BA and MA degrees in English from Indiana University-Purdue University, Fort Wayne, and an MFA in Fiction from Minnesota State University, Mankato. Her research interests include popular music and culture, 1920s jazz, and blues, confessional poetry, and the rhetoric of fiction. She has presented at numerous conferences in rhetoric and composition, and creative writing. Her creative works have appeared in Tenth Muse, Apostrophe, The Flying Island, Scavenger's Newsletter and elsewhere. She has won university-based awards for creative work and literary criticism.

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