Christine Dwyer plays Jenna in the tour of “Waitress” at the Golden Gate Theatre. (Courtesy Tim Trumble)

‘Waitress’ a sweet, tuneful slice of life

Marshmallow Mermaid Pie, Blueberry Bacon Pie and I Hate My Husband Pie are on the menu in “Waitress,” the charming, tasty musical onstage at the Golden Gate Theatre in The City.

Happily, book writer Jessie Nelson includes the quirks and captures the everyday life quality of late screenwriter Adrienne Shelly’s amusing and touching 2007 film dramedy “Waitress.” And with cute yet pithy jazzy, folk and rock-tinged pop tunes by Sara Bareilles (similar in tone to her breakout anti love-song hit “Love Song”), it’s a recipe for success.

It’s not a given that a movie-to-musical works, but the touted, rare all-female creative team behind “Waitress” — director Diane Paulus and choreographer Lorin Latarro round out the foursome — serves up just the right touch of sass and sentiment in the 2016 Broadway show.

In this touring version, Christine Dwyer is nuanced and irresistible as Jenna, who bakes heavenly pies, waits tables at Joe’s Pie Diner, hangs with fellow waitresses Becky (Anastacia McCleskey, in a bold turn) and Dawn (Jessie Shelton, appropriately zany), and is stuck in a bad marriage with the abusive Earl (Matt DeAngelis, believably gruff).

At the outset, she finds herself unhappily pregnant. The third tune, “The Negative,” has the women in the diner’s bathroom anxiously awaiting the results of her pee-on-the-stick test. Soon after, she’s in a quandary, attracted to the new-in-town, appealingly awkward Dr. Pomatter (Bryan Fenkart, darling) and thinking about making the I Wanna Play Doctor with My Gynecologist Pie.

They flirt adorably, and do more, in his office, offering the production’s most delightful moments, among many.

But everyone gets a solo to shine, even the guys, who make the most of the stock-written male characters. Jeremy Morse, reprising his Broadway role as Ogie, Dawn’s over-the-top sweetheart and rabid war reenactor, playing broadly to the crowd’s delight, is most notable.

And the sexy, rocking-out “Bad Idea,” in which three pairs wildly couple onstage (clever choreography!) is a hoot. Sarcastic cook Cal (Ryan G. Dunkin) joins the mix.

Still, most powerful parts of “Waitress” come with the women, harmonizing in the dreamy, touching trio “A Soft Place to Land” and intoning “sugar, butter, flour” with heart and soul.

Jenna, perhaps too fancifully, really sprinkles the dry ingredients around, and rolls out dough, adding to the proceedings a fun air of authenticity, as does the smell of pie baking in the lobby before the show.

When Dawn tells Jenna she’s the queen of kindness and goodness, we believe her, and that’s what makes “Waitress” an utter treat.

REVIEW
Waitress
Where: SHN Golden Gate Theatre, 1 Taylor St., S.F.
When: 8 p.m. Tuesdays, Thursdays-Fridays, 2 and 8 p.m. Wednesdays and Saturdays; 2 p.m. Sundays; closes Nov. 11
Tickets: $80 to $256
Contact: (888) 746-1799, www.shnsf.com

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