WAITRESS–I saw this show hot out of the oven at its 2015 Broadway-bound world premiere at the A.R.T. Based on a charming, offbeat film and turned into a scrumptious slice of musical theater by Diane Paulus and an all female team, it depends on a key ingredient: a score by Grammy award-winning pop artist Sara Bareilles. I loved the original production  (my original review) and I loved it all over again in its latest incarnation on a much larger stage at the Boston Opera House!

Don’t miss this show (here until March 4) about a young woman trapped in an abusive marriage who bakes her heart and soul into her signature pies: “white knuckle cream pie”or “key (lime) to happiness pie.”  Jenna dreams of escape and suddenly finds herself pregnant. Will she give birth to the baby– and herself too?

The cast is every bit as charismatic and accomplished as the original– Desi Oakley as Jenna stops the show with her soaring vocals– less sweet than Jessie Mueller’s in the original but more passionate and triumphant. Charity Angel Dawson as the hearty, wisecracking Becky also stops the show with her humor, energy, and giant voice.  So did Jeremy Morse who had us screaming as the loose-limbed, lovestruck Ogie.

Act two is still too pat, but the show rises above it. The set here has more room to host its musicians onstage, and is even more evocatively used, literally widening out to reveal  the open road (read: possibilities for the heroine) and Jenna’s longing for and connection to her mother, and a history of beaten down women searching for ways to be heard, handing down their “recipes ”across generations and geography. This is a moving, timely, and uplifting show with ingredients to spare. Don’t miss this “dreamy deep dish slice-of-life pie”!

Disney’s BEAUTY and the BEAST at Wheelock Family Theatre through March 4 is a delightful production based on the animated Disney film and really casts a spell! The production absolutely captures the earnestness and sincerity of a fairytale come to life, with excellent voices and committed performances that allowed the goodness of true hearts and real love to come shining through the beast in us all.

Justine “Icy” Moral as the brainy “Belle” is both charming and bold with a rich soprano. She and Jared Troilo, who suggests great vulnerability beneath his hooves and horns as “Beast,” have real chemistry. I bought it. Beautiful lighting, great costumes, and solid supporting work from Mark Linehan as the blowhard Gaston (he might have blown even harder) made the rather long (2 1/2 hours) show move along. Take the kids to escape the beastly weather before it closes this weekend.