MANILA -- “Sometimes one bite is more than enough to know you want more of the thing you just got a taste of.”
So goes the chorus of "It Only Takes a Taste" from the musical "
"Waitress," based on the beloved film by Adrienne Shelly and featuring music and lyrics from six-time Grammy nominee Sara Bareilles and a book by Jessie Nelson.
Staged by Atlantis Theatrical, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary next year, Waitress Manila is the first international production of the critically acclaimed musical, even ahead of the West End and Australian stagings.
Award-winning international theater star Joanna Ampil leads the show as Jenna, a pie maker who finds comfort and reckoning in the simple magic of baking. She discovers more of the world and herself with the help of her two friends Dawn and Becky, played by Maronne Cruz and Bituin Escalante, respectively.
Cruz says that playing the eccentric Dawn is her own dream role come true. “I loved 'Waitress' since it came out and I loved Dawn since I listened to the recordings. She’s my favorite character ever since. I have such a strong bond with the character and I relate to her so much,” she says.
Her eyes lit up and her voice shrill and sweet as she went on: “We’re different people at the end of the day but there’s no denying that the things we’re interested in and the way we think are pretty similar. Our instincts are kind of the same making it so easy.”
“I understand where she’s coming from a lot, a lot more than how I’ve understood other characters I’ve played, honestly,” she admits.
Escalante, too, saw a piece of herself in Becky. “It’s ironic when I’m playing someone else that I am my most honest self. You’re putting on a character but it allows you to explore your feelings and be more vulnerable.”
She continues: “Becky is an idealized version of me. I have better circumstances. I have greater gifts. But her attitude is something I can learn from. She doesn’t let anything get her down and she doesn’t second-guess herself. It’s a very courageous way to live.”
When asked if she still gets stage fright, she shares, “I get more nervous doing live shows than theater. I trust the material completely because the story will carry.”
She explains further: “I’ve been doing children’s theater for the last many years and it’s not about how the audience reacts. It’s really about the story and trusting how it’s written.”
On "Waitress," she muses, “It’s so well-written and I have no fear going out onstage and telling this story.”
It’s somewhat a homecoming for Escalante, who, after 15 years, returns to Atlantis. “As much as Director Bobby (Garcia) has remained a friend, it’s in working with him that I see the most precious version of him,” she says with her voice cracking up. “The way he takes apart text and interprets it shows you what kind of a sensitive introspective human being he is.”
“He is his best version when directing and to have that relationship again with him is truly, really a gift to me,” she ends as she subtly wiped her tears.
At the press conference held at the Discovery Suites in Mandaluyong, the media were treated to surprise numbers by the Manila cast leaving most of us, if not all, craving for more of the play’s delightful servings.
Also in the play are Bibo Reyes, Nino Alejandro, George Schulze, Dean Rosen, Steven Conde, Luigi Quesada, Gerhard Krysstopher, Luis Marcelo, Emeline Celis Guinid, Teetin Villanueva, Sarah Facuri, and Jillian Ita-as.
Watching the three female leads perform "A Soft Place to Land" with such great sincerity and feelings as if it were their own friendship song, was like sharing in that moment of sisterhood as one went through restarting again, believing in second chances, and cherishing a connection so pure, it’s electric.
"Waitress" will run from November 9 to December 2 at the Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium, RCBC Plaza, Makati.