WAITRESS stars Joanna Ampil (center), Bituin Escalante (L), and Maronne Cruz.

“FULL OF chocolates and strawberries” is how award-winning actress Joanna Ampil described her character Jenna in the upcoming musical Waitress, as if she were a pie flavor.
Waitress makes its debut in Manila on Nov. 9 at the Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium, RCBC Plaza, Makati City.
Based on Adrienne Shelly’s film of the same name, then adapted into a Broadway musical (book by Jessie Nelson), Waitress follows Jenna Hunterson, a waitress at Joe’s Pie Diner. With the support of her two friends Dawn and Becky, she finds comfort in baking as an escape from her mundane life and the stress brought by her abusive marriage to husband Earl. After learning that she is pregnant, Jenna begins an affair with her new gynecologist, Dr. Jim Pomatter. When she learns about a pie baking contest, Jenna hopes that winning it will afford her the opportunity to start a new life.
According to the actors in Atlantis Theatrical Entertainment Group’s production, the pie is a special cast member. The various pie flavors baked in the story represent significant circumstances and events throughout the show.
“It’s (baking) their escapism from their mundane life. And also, she (Jenna) grew up baking. Her mom taught her how to bake. She has a lot of joy when it comes to baking. She remembers her mother who gave her a lot of love. So, I think that’s why it’s a huge part of her life,” Ms. Ampil said of the significance of baking in the story, during the press conference on Oct. 18 at Discovery Suites in Ortigas.
For Ms. Ampil, the role of Jenna is by far her most challenging role, citing that it is “physically, vocally, and emotionally demanding.”
“I’m constantly onstage. I’m never off… It’s such a huge undertaking for me, but it’s so exciting,” she told members of the press.
“There is more pressure when you perform for a Filipino audience because people are so talented here and they (the audience) know the sound they want to hear. And there are such good mimics here that they usually try to look for that particular sound that they’ve heard from somewhere. That’s the pressure performing for a Filipino audience,” said Ms. Ampil.
“But then again, they’re perfectionist. So, you tend to perform better, and you strive harder because you cannot have any mistakes. Filipinos can be quite critical. It’s not such a bad thing, it’s just that they are of a particular standard,” she added.
With music and lyrics by Sara Bareilles, the musical is directed by Bobby Garcia and choreographed by Cecile Martinez.
“The music of this story is what a lot of people would consider more pop… Despite the pop underbelly, the stories that the lyrics tell are so hard-hitting deep and they really tug at your heartstrings,” Nino Alejandro, who plays Ogie, Dawn’s boyfriend, said about the music.
The story focuses on women empowerment.
“The show shows women empowerment through the power of sisterhood,” Maronne Cruz who plays Dawn, told the press. “These women find strength not just by coming into terms with their own issues by themselves, but they also gain their strength from their friends. These women support each other wholeheartedly no matter what their circumstances are and that’s an extremely empowering part of the show.”
Bituin Escalante, who plays Becky, said that women need the company of other women to lift each other up.
“It’s generations and generations of the struggle of women. You can’t go at it alone. You really need the woman next to you, the woman in the next room, the nurse who comes in who is really there no matter how harsh you can get. She knows what a woman feels. We only have each other,” she said.
“Jenna’s journey is about finding her strength. Finding it back and getting it back,” Ms. Ampil said.
Also in the cast are Bibo Reyes as Dr. Pomatter, George Schulze as Earl, Dean Rosen as Cal, and Steven Conde as Joe. Luigi Quesada, Gerhard Krysstopher, Luis Marcelo, Emeline Celis Guinid, Teetin Villanueva, Sarah Facuri, and Jillian Ita-as are the ensemble.
Waitress will run from Nov. 9 to Dec. 2 at the Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium, RCBC Plaza, Makati. For details visit Atlantis Theatrical Entertainment Group at www.facebook.com/ATEGasia/. For tickets, contact Ticketworld at (632) 891-9999 or visit www.ticketworld.com.ph. — Michelle Anne P. Soliman