The Waitress phenomenon

Larry Dallas

christine dwyer
Christine Dwyer
When I was still working, there was a woman in one of the other departments in my building who was obsessed with the musical Waitress. She had seen it more than once on Broadway and had selfies with members of the cast. When it hit Proctors Theatre in Schenectady, she saw the touring show.

But she also had a Waitress cookbook and even promised to bake me a pie before I retired. (She tried to, but the pie failed, so she bought me one.)

When my wife, daughter and I saw it back in June, I thought it was… fine. Pleasant. It reminded me structurally to the TV show Alice. Alice never fell for her gynecologist, as Jenna (Christine Dwyer) did, though. Becky, the black waitress (Melody A. Betts), reminded me of the white, wisecracking Flo on the TV show. The timid Dawn (Ephie Aardema) is not dissimilar to the flaky Vera.

Even the diner managers, Mel, and Cal (Ryan G. Dunkin) were guys with rough exteriors but with hearts of gold. Odd that I didn’t get that deja vu feeling with the movie.

All she found was Earl

In the musical, Jenna’s abusive and controlling husband Earl (Jeremy Woodard) made my daughter extremely uncomfortable. In both stage and screen, Earl reminded me of the villain in the Dixie Chicks’ video for Goodbye Earl with Jane Krakowski, Dennis Franz, and Lauren Holly.

Another difference is that in Waitress, the actual diner owner was an older man named Joe, played in the show I saw by Richard Kline. You may remember Kline best from the sitcom Three’s Company as Larry Dallas.

The most interesting/bizarre character in Waitress is Ogie (Jeremy Morse), who is wooing Dawn. A local reviewer suggested that he seemed to belong in another play entirely, he was so off the wall. He was the most entertaining part of the production.

Waitress opened on Broadway on April 24, 2016, and has over 1450 performances. But it will close on January 5, 2020. Several people I’ve actually heard of have played Jenna, including Sara Bareilles, who wrote the serviceable music, and former American Idol contestants Katharine McPhee and Jordin Sparks. Meanwhile, the touring show continues through at least mid-2020.

Actor Victor Garber turns 70

Victor Garber was a member of The Sugar Shoppe, a Canadian sunshine pop vocal group who recorded in the late 1960s.

Victor Garber
NEW YORK, NY: Actor Victor Garber attends the 40th International Emmy Awards on November 19, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Robin Marchant/Getty Images)
Back in my early days of blogging, when I was very susceptible to memes, I adopted actor Victor Garber. He fit the mold as as “a character actor, as they are the unsung heroes of the entertainment world.”

In fact, it was almost exactly a decade ago I wrote that post, not realizing at the time how close it was to his 60th birthday. I’ll admit I haven’t been particularly good at “promoting the actor from time to time” since then. So what has he been up to in the past ten years?

Among other things, Victor Garber has been heavily involved in the DC universe on TV and in movies. I haven’t actually watched most of these, though I did see him in a 2017 episode of Supergirl.

Episodes of Glee, 30 Rock, Modern Family, and The Good Wife I’ve seen him in. He’s been Admiral Halsey – love that name – on The Orville, which I’ve caught a handful of times.

I know him mostly as Ken Taylor, the Canadian ambassador who helped six Americans escape during the Iranian hostage crisis in 1980, in the movie Argo (2012)

Supporters of Taylor, who saw the movie at the the Toronto International Film Festival, “were angered by what they saw as Affleck’s American-centric take on the crisis that minimized Taylor and Canada’s role. Affleck called Taylor and the two drafted a postscript that emphasized the Canadian Embassy’s crucial involvement.

“One year later, Taylor did press interviews and traveled the festival circuit to promote Our Man In Tehran, a Canadian documentary that sets the record straight about our embassy’s role.”

Still, I thought Garber’s portrayal, however inaccurate, was rather cool. It was rather like the role for which I best know him, agent Jacks Bristol, spy and estranged father to Sydney (Jennifer Garner).

And not much at all like his first movie role, as Jesus in the movie Godspell.
Godspell trailer
Save the People
Alas for You

Victor Garber’s Internet Broadway Database page, including Sweeney Todd (1979-1980), Damn Yankees (1994-1995), and Hello, Dolly as Horace Vandergelder (Jan 20 – Jul 15, 2018)

The Sugar Shoppe was a Canadian sunshine pop vocal group who recorded in the late 1960s. The Sugar Shoppe – Full album on Capitol Records (1968)

InnerVIEWS with Ernie Manouse: Victor Garber (2014)

September rambling #2: Land of Confusion

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John Oliver: Facebook’s global expansion has been linked to political turmoil overseas, so maybe their ads should focus less on how they “connect the world” and more on why connecting people isn’t always the best idea.

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Interview with Dick Van Dyke at 2017 Salt Lake City Comic-Con (30 min)

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Premiere night of The Minor League Mecca, the Albany Patroons documentary

The million-dollar brownstone that no one owned​

Bruef slide show on the history of the Horn & Hardart Automats

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Would-be robber loses trousers

MUSIC

Fugue on “Donald Trump is a wanker” based on Seven-Man Army – White Stripes. Plus So You Want to Write a Fugue? – Glenn Gould

René and Georgette Magritte with Their Dog After the War – Paul Simon (Live from Copenhagen); Feeling Lost with Paul Simon One Last Time

Land of Confusion – Hidden Citizens

Africa -Weezer (starring Weird Al Yankovic)

Estancia, by a composer named Alberto Ginastera

Good Times – Pheobe Snow

Ravel Left Hand Piano Concerto played by Yuja Wang

Overture to The Jolly Robbers -von Suppé

Bonehemian Rhapsody – 28-Trombone Collaboration! (from ITF 2018!)

Gangsta’s Paradise – Jain

Marry An Ugly Woman – Rafael de Leon (Roaring Lion)

Weekend Diversion: Coldplay

How big was Helen Shapiro? The Beatles opened for her in 1963

Paul McCartney: Lands No. 1 Album for First Time in 36 Years and Answers the Web’s Most Searched Questions and Talks to Howard Stern and at the Kennedy Center Honors (2012)

Jefferson Airplane Co-Founder Marty Balin Dead at 76

Broadway’s Bernadette Peters turns 70

Bernadette Peters replaced Tony winner Bette Midler in Hello, Dolly!

I was watching The Carol Burnett 50th anniversary special in December 2017. Carol noted that Bernadette Peters was on her very first episode on 11 September 1967. How could that be?

Because Ms. Peters was a member of the Actors Equity union the age of nine, with two television credits from 1958! Moreover, she was in two short-lived roles, and was an understudy for a third, on Broadway before she first made the Burnett show, uncredited. She made at least ten more appearances.

Bernadette Peters is a Broadway legend who has won Tony Awards for her performances in Song and Dance (1985) and in the 1999 revival of Annie Get Your Gun.

Her numerous other Broadway credits include starring roles in Into the Woods, Sunday in the Park with George, and Gypsy. She is considered by theater critics to be among the best interpreters of Stephen Sondheim’s work.

The actress, born Bernadette Lazzara, also made her mark in movies such as The Jerk and Pennies from Heaven, both with Steve Martin, whom she dated from 1977 to 1981. And she was in Annie (1982) with the aforementioned Carol Burnett.

Peters married investment adviser Michael Wittenberg on July 20, 1996. He “died at age 43 on September 26, 2005, in a helicopter crash in Montenegro while on a business trip.”

She has recorded six albums, performed in many concerts and serves on the Board of Trustees of Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, among other works.

Starting on January 20, 2018, she has been starring in Hello, Dolly, an iconic role that been played by Barbra Streisand on screen, and Ginger Rogers, Ethel Merman, Pearl Bailey and, of course, Carol Channing on stage. She replaced Tony winner Bette Midler; Victor Garber follows David Hyde Pierce as Horace Vandergelder.

Charles, who directed me in Boys in the Band way back in 1975, saw the current production and declared it “spectacular.” He said, “Bernadette Peters has grown into a mature, comic actress who can also break your heart.”

Happy birthday to a performer who is still going strong, Bernadette Peters.

The Color Purple: screen to stage

Cynthia Erivo as Celie in the Broadway revival
I never finished reading Alice Walker’s powerful 1982 novel The Color Purple, though I had read good chunks of it.

The movie came out in late 1985, so I would have seen it in the first three months of the following year. I thought it was strong, powerful, and occasionally difficult to watch. Danny Glover played Mister/Albert, who was a brute. Whoopi Goldberg as Celie Johnson, Margaret Avery and Shug Avery, and, surprisingly, Oprah Winfrey as Sofia were quite good, as was the rest of the cast.

The film garnered 11 Academy Award nominations, including for those three women, winning zero, making it the film with the most noms with no Oscars. Goldberg and director Steven Spielberg did win the Golden Globes, and the film was named best drama.

Then there was the first Broadway production which ran from December 2005 to the end of February 2008, nominated for 11 Tonys, and winning one, LaChanze as Celie. Renée Elise Goldsberry, later of Hamilton fame, played Celie’s sister Nettie. The touring company production ended a couple years later.

The musical was revived at the end of 2015 and closed early in 2017. It was nominated for four Tonys, and won Best Revival of a Musical and Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical, Cynthia Erivo as Celie.

The touring show started on October 17, 2017 in Baltimore. But wait. What did I see on October 8 at Proctors Theatre in Schenectady, featuring “director John Doyle’s deceptively simple set design, a towering array of angled, broken barn boards and mismatched wooden chairs that rise up from the stage to the overhead fly-space”?

Technically, it was a preview show, working out the bugs in the story and technical problems. I’m told the cast in the earlier production was quite large, but only 17 in this iteration. The story is strong, especially in the first half. The songs are very inspirational, especially in the second half, and performed well throughout.

A couple actors weren’t miked well, and I couldn’t really make out what they were saying.

A bigger problem for me, though, was the transformation of Mister/Albert from Act 1’s bully to Act 2’s saint. It didn’t feel earned, and as my wife noted, when a child is left in hs care, she worried about the baby’s welfare, unnecessarily so, as it turns out.

I’m sure that the technical issues will be fixed. Whether the storyline will be, I don’t know. Still, even with that caveat, it was well worth seeing.