Recently, Waitress has undergone some major changes.
Tony Award-winning actress Jessie Mueller, who has starred in the Broadway show since its 2015 debut, is handing her baking materials over to the show’s composer, 6-time Grammy-nominated singer/songwriter Sara Bareilles, who made her Broadway debut on March 31st, 2017, and is performing as Jenna, the show’s protagonist, for a 10 week run, ending on June 11th.
Waitress, with book by Jessie Nelson and directed by Diane Paulus, tells the tale of Jenna, a small-town waitress at a local diner, who is a secretly amazing baker. Jenna struggles to find inner peace and freedom due to her emotionally abusive marriage; her journey becomes increasingly difficult when she finds herself pregnant, and falls in love with her gynecologist, Dr. Pomatter. Throughout the show, Jenna finds love and hope in unexpected places, and eventually breaks free of the chains that have been holding he back.
The musical was nominated for four Tony Awards in 2016: musical, score, lead actress and featured actor.
Waitress will also be premiering at the Hollywood Pantages in August 2018.
“It is bittersweet to leave something you helped create and the folks you created it with. I think that will be the hardest part. This is an extraordinary group that has put their heart and soul into this thing. And I mean every crew member, dresser and musician—across the board,” Jessie Mueller told Broadway.com when asked what her thoughts are in regard to leaving the production.
Sara Bareilles can’t wait to get started.
“I had such a wonderful experience discovering her from the inside out as I was writing the songs; now to get to interpret it as the storyteller onstage feels like a nice full-circle moment,” Bareilles told Time Out.
In honor of this bittersweet and exciting transition, here are some interesting facts about Waitress:
1. The musical is based on a 2007 film by Adrienne Shelly.
Shelly wrote, directed, and played Dawn, one of the lead characters in Waitress, and had already submitted the independent film to the 2007 Sundance Film Festival when she died tragically in 2006, murdered in her New York City apartment. Shelly died before finding out that Waitress, starring Keri Russell, had been accepted to the festival; it ended up being one of Sundance’s top films that year. At Sundance, Shelly’s husband Andy Ostroy announced that he would be launching the Adrienne Shelly Foundation, which seeks to provide a platform for female filmmakers by providing grants and scholarships. The foundation has since partnered with several organizations, including the Sundance Institute, the American Film Institute, the Tribeca Film Institute, and Columbia University, among others.
According to a 2015 NPR article, director Diane Paulus said that throughout the process of transforming Waitress into a stage production, the creative team has always kept the original screenplay in hand, in hopes of doing Adrienne Shelly justice. In the article, writer Jessie Nelson states that, through the process, Shelly has still maintained creative voice and influence in the process. “ I really carefully went through it and tried to bring her voice into it whenever I could, as if she was another collaborator in the room,” Nelson said.
2. Waitress has Broadway’s first all-female creative team.
From Adrienne Shelly, to Jessie Nelson (book), to Sara Bareilles (music/lyrics), Diane Paulus (director), and Lorin Latarro (choreographer), there is a lot of female power in the Waitress team. However, according to a 2016 TIMES article entitled “How the Women of Waitress Are Changing Broadway Behind the Scenes,” developing a creative team of all women was never the intention; it just fell into place. In the article, director Diane Paulus states, “what’s important to me is that every woman is in the position on this team because they’re the best person for the job. So what does that mean? It means that women are on the top of their game.”
3. Waitress set the record for the most money earned in previews at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre.
In March 2016, Waitress transitioned from its limited (sold-out) run at the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, Massachusetts, which lasted from August and September 2015, to the Broadway stage. According to Playbill, the show set a record by having a single-performance gross of $145,532 within its first weekend on Broadway.
4. Sara Bareilles, known for her pop hits, grew up in the theater.
According to Playbill, Bareilles was involved in many community theatre productions growing up, including Little Shop of Horrors and The Mystery of Edwin Drood. Bareilles describes her return to the theatre as a “childhood dream.” In her 2015 memoir, Sounds Like Me, Bareilles writes, “I developed a way of listening to music because of those shows, and because of that, I learned a particular way of writing that would show up down the line,” and goes on to describe how Broadway shows pushed her to delve deeper and explore music as a means of storytelling.
“I think back to when I was a little girl, dreaming of stepping on the stage of a great theater someday. The seed that was planted back then as a child has been dormant but patient, and it is with hopeful eyes I watch it take root and rise up,” Bareilles writes in Sounds Like Me.
5. The pie is no lie.
Waitress takes place at a diner which specializes in pie. In order to create an authentic and inviting atmosphere in the theater, pies are actually baked before each show for a true-to-life aroma. According to a New York Times article entitled FreshBaked Pie Has Aromatic Role in ‘Waitress’ Musical, the theater is scented by baking fresh pies in a convection oven in a space right outside the theater’s orchestra seating; the pie bakes throughout the show, and the scent wafts into the theater whenever the door opens. The article states that the Waitress pies are not baked for consumption, just scent; they have a very high percentage of nutmeg and cinnamon, which helps to strengthen the aroma, and do not have lemon juice, which is typically a staple ingredient.