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Broadway in Calgary: Waitress

By Shefali Rai, December 6 2019—

Ah, Broadway. A delight for the eyes, ears and hearts. There is no simpler pleasure than witnessing a heart-warming story unfold before your eyes. Fine acting, singing and even more impressive original song lists are enough to make anyone a die-hard fan. Calgarians who visited Broadway’s Waitress during late November will readily agree. There would be little argument on the value of these uplifting musicals and theatrical performances, however there might be a question to raise regarding the delivery of such performances.

Living in the peak of the information age and with social media bombarding our minds, I appreciate the step back in time to watch a Broadway play or musical. As in the Shakespearean era, people would rejoice the day they visited the theatre and sipped on fancy bubbly, or ale for some of the commoners among the audience. These rituals still exist in our society today. Obviously, nowadays, we can turn on Netflix, order in some take-out, stay in our pajamas and watch the latest “Trending Now” movies. If that was sufficient, movie theatres would shut down and claim bankruptcy. But, there are several components of going to the movies that are more than just sufficient — they’re enough for a first date or family gathering or even a single ticket-for-one night out. It’s for the overall experience, not just the entertainment. 

Jessie Shelton, Christine Dwyer and Maiesha McQueen in the National Tour of Waitress. // Photo courtesy of Philicia Endelman.

Waitress played from Nov. 19-24 at the Southern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium. Tickets may be pricey to shows like these, but you’re paying for more than just the performers and the show. You’re paying for the rush of watching something live, the excitement of getting dressed up and making a fancy night of it, supporting talented artists and for some, the Instagram stories. If digital copies were released earlier, then fewer patrons would visit the touring Waitress entertainers. There’s something about sitting with an audience, feeling the emotions in the room and the vibrations of the sound in a well engineering theatre that can’t be paralleled by watching a recorded version on your TV screen. 

For those of you that missed Waitress this time around, it received wonderful critical appraisals, as do most Broadway shows. It’s a story about a waitress who enters a baking contest, which might just be the fresh start she needs to change her currently dull life. It’s lead by a strong female performer and an all-female creative team. seven-time Grammy nominee, Sara Bareilles, wrote original music and lyrics for this show and Tony Award winner Diane Paulus offered direction for the show.  

Fret not — even though Waitress has moved on to Edmonton to continue its Canadian tour, Dear Evan Hansen will be visiting Calgary in February 2020. If you haven’t yet treated yourself to a Broadway show or need to buy yourself a New Year’s present, I highly recommend visiting a Broadway musical. My first experience was in the arts capital of North America — New York City. I still remember feeling overjoyed for the Wicked tickets my mother had bought for our mini trip to NYC. The magnificent Broadway theatre, the acrobatics of the performers, the beautiful melodies and the sensational sights were something I’ll hold dear in my heart for a lifetime. And sharing that experience with my favourite person made that memory so much fonder.

This article is part of our Opinions section and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Gauntlet’s editorial board.

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