Joanie Little is an honest, open and kookily sexy waitress working in Gabe's Coffee Shop in Toronto. With upbeat charm and endearing clumsiness, she negotiates her customers' tricky personalities and orders while trying to find some sparkle among her uninspiring surroundings.
It's Jane who gives the loveable Joanie a most apt piece of advice which makes a wonderful take-home message from this feel-good play: "Just be you, Joanie".
Joanie has a degree in anthropology but, with the job market being what it is at the moment, she's going to have to pass the time making coffee until her dream job in fieldwork comes along. To entertain herself - and us - she transforms her dull surroundings into an exotic Animal Kingdom. She imagines all her customers as its animal inhabitants, making some absolutely spot on observations.
We see Joanie stepping out from behind the coffee bar, reclaiming her identity beyond the apron and name badge, and letting us into her embarrassing secrets and joyous triumphs. The joy of the piece comes from her enthusiasm for life, her down-to-earth approach and her sincere efforts to make the best of all she's given.
Rebecca Perry as Joanie manages lovely and hilarious transformations into the other characters, such as miserable Mike the Ex, who works tragically nearby, and Monique, who pops in everyday for her detoxing té vert. We are totally on her side right from the beginning.
The piece is brilliantly enhanced with musical interludes and songs that sync perfectly into the story. Perry has a gorgeous jazz voice, capable of Cole Porter-esque perkiness and soulful richness.
Joanie's idol is, obviously, Jane Goodall and there's a fair amount of hero-worshiping going on. The fan-girling is as cutesy and entertaining as the rest of the piece and adds a lovely, real-life dimension. It's Jane who gives the loveable Joanie a most apt piece of advice which makes a wonderful take-home message from this feel-good play: "Just be you, Joanie".