Posts Tagged ‘jessie mueller’

Half-Baked: ‘Waitress’ Opens on Broadway

April 24th, 2016 Comments off
Jessie Mueller in 'Waitress.' (Photo: Joan Marcus via The Broadway Blog.)

Jessie Mueller in ‘Waitress.’ (Photo: Joan Marcus via The Broadway Blog.)

There’s no mistaking that the producers of Waitress, a new musical by Jessie Nelson and Sara Bareilles (four-time Grammy Award nominee), want to deliver something sweet for Broadway audiences. The smell of freshly baked pie wafts through the lobby and the traditional curtain has been replaced with a scrim of cherry pie with lattice topping. Based on the 2007 film of the same name, the musical throws an awful lot of ingredients into the proverbial mixing bowl. The result is an interesting bite… you might even be satisfied with a whole slice, but the recipe needs some fine-tuning.

Jenna (Jessie Mueller) is a waitress in a small town diner and trapped in a loveless and abusive marriage to Earl (Nick Cordero). Her co-workers Dawn (Kimiko Glenn) and Becky (Keala Settle) are by her side when she finds out that she’s pregnant, though cook Cal (Eric Anderson) is less sympathetic. When Jenna goes to see her longtime family doctor, she discovers that she’s retired and has been replaced by the gangly and flirtatious Dr. Pomatter (Drew Gehling), who is also married. Their chemistry is almost instantaneous and the rest of the show is spent watching Jenna navigate this unexpected life shift.

When not screwing her doctor, Jenna is stashing extra tip money in hopes of entering a regional pie-baking contest (a skill she inherited from her mother) and using the winnings to start a new life for herself and soon-to-be child. Meanwhile Joe, the curmudgeonly diner owner (Dakin Matthews), becomes an increasing presence in Jenna’s life and in an unexpected twist, sets her on a new path as the musical’s final pie is pulled from the oven.

Jessie Mueller and Dakin Matthews in 'Waitress.' (Photo: Joan Marcus via The Broadway Blog.)

Jessie Mueller and Dakin Matthews in ‘Waitress.’ (Photo: Joan Marcus via The Broadway Blog.)

Nelson and Bareilles keep the plot faithfully plugging along and even includes some fun side antics, most notably Ogie (Christopher Fitzgerald), Dawn’s love interest with a quirky passion for American history. The score has Bareilles’s signature melodic riffs that jump octaves and twist around unexpected chord progressions. It’s a fresh sound for Broadway, not unlike the season’s other singer/songwriter crossover Bright Star. Jonathan Deans’ sound design is heavy on the band, in spite of major vocal amplification and the use of visually distracting head-worn mics.

Sprinkled with humor and gravitas, it all feels a bit too familiar, and it is only Mueller’s central character that is given a dynamic arc to play. A Tony Award winner for her performance in Beautiful The Carol King Musical, Mueller is achingly magnetic to watch. Broken from a life of abuse she witnessed as a child and embodied as an adult, Mueller’s character slowly finds her voice and the strength to break the cycle. It helps that Bareilles gives her soaring material to deliver, including the 11 o’clock number, “She Used to Be Mine,” which will bring a tear to even the most jaded theatergoer’s eye.

The rest of the cast does its best to bring such depth, but a pie just won’t cook in a lukewarm oven. As charming as Gehling is as an unconventional leading man, there’s barely a moment of consequence or regret (though plenty of abandonment) in acknowledging his infidelity. Only Settle’s character of Becky offers Jenna insight as to the complexities of love versus desire.

Director Diane Paulus has assembled a refreshingly diverse cast who navigate Scott Pask’s vivid sets with dexterity and movement choreographed by Lorin Latarro in the spirit of Frantic Assembly. (Latarro was an associate on The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.)

Waitress has—and will continue—to find its audience. It set a house record at The Brooks Atkinson on opening weekend for gross sales for a single performance ($145,532) and tickets are on sale through January 2017. The best reason to see the show, though, is not for the meal, but rather who’s serving it. Make sure you’re sitting at Mueller’s table.

(l to r) Keala Settle, Jessie Mueller, and Kimiko Glenn in 'Waitress,' (Photo: Joan Marcus via The Broadway Blog.)

(l to r) Keala Settle, Jessie Mueller, and Kimiko Glenn in ‘Waitress,’ (Photo: Joan Marcus via The Broadway Blog.)

Brooks Atkinson Theatre
2556 West 47th Street, NYC
Open-ended run.

Matthew Wexler is The Broadway Blog’s editor. Follow him on social media at @roodeloo.

Three to See: April

April 5th, 2016 Comments off

April showers are raining on Broadway this month with last-minute openings for productions to be eligible for this year’s Tony Awards (the cut-off date is April 28). It was tough list to narrow down, but these are the three that we’ve got our eyes on (with a bonus show just for good measure!)

Jessie Mueller in 'Waitress.' (Photo: Jeremy Daniel via The Broadway Blog.)

Jessie Mueller in ‘Waitress.’ (Photo: Jeremy Daniel via The Broadway Blog.)

Broadway’s favorite darling and Tony winner Jessie Mueller (Beautiful: The Carol King Musical) leads the cast as Jenna, a waitress and expert pie maker in a small town who dreams of a way out of her loveless marriage. A baking contest in a nearby county and the town’s new doctor may offer her a chance at a fresh start, while her fellow waitresses offer their own recipes for happiness. With music and lyrics by Sara Bareilles, book by Jessie Nelson, and direction by Diana Paulus (Pippin, Finding Neverland), this team of female powerhouses promises to deliver a heaping serving of musical theater.

Brooks Atkinson Theatre
256 West 47th Street
Opening night: April 24

fully committedFully Committed
Our favorite funny man Jesse Tyler Ferguson (Modern Family) finally returns to Broadway in a hilarious revival of Becky Mode’s one-person play, which was originally an Off Broadway tour de force.

You think you’re having a bad day at work? Meet Sam. He covers the red-hot reservation line at one of New York’s most exclusive restaurants, juggling desperate diners, scheming socialites, name-dropping wannabes, celebrity divas, panicked waiters and a fame-hungry chef. And in this sidesplitting comedy, Ferguson plays all 40 characters!

Fully Committed
Lyceum Theatre
149 West 45th Street
Opening night: April 25


shuffle along

Shuffle Along, Or the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 And All That Followed
If there’s one show that might have just as much historical resonance and reinvention than runaway hit Hamilton, it’s this star-packed, behind-the-scenes look at the 1921 musical that redefined Broadway.

This retelling is helmed by director George C. Wolfe and stars Audra McDonald, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Billy Porter, Brandon Victor Dixon, Joshua Henry, Brooks Ashmanskas, and features choreography by Savion Glover. Put on your tapping shoes, this is going to be one wild ride! 

Shuffle Along, Or the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 And All That Followed
Music Box Theatre
239 West 45th Street
Opening night: April 28 


Glenn Close in 'Sunset Boulevard' at the English National Opera. (Photo: Richard Hubert Smith via The Broadway Blog.)

Glenn Close in ‘Sunset Boulevard’ at the English National Opera. (Photo: Richard Hubert Smith via The Broadway Blog.)

Skip the pond and head to the English National Opera’s revival of Sunset Boulevard, starring its original Broadway leading lady, Glenn Close. Critics are raving about her performance!

Sunset Boulevard
English National Opera
Through May 7, 2016.

NJPAC: Bernadette Peters and Fall Concerts

October 23rd, 2015 Comments off
Bernadette Peters (Photo: Andrew Eccles via The Broadway Blog.)

Bernadette Peters (Photo: Andrew Eccles via The Broadway Blog.)

Last week Broadway icon Bernadette Peters graced the stage at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC). Draped in a sequined lavender gown (with dyed satin shoes to match), Peters delivered many of the songs she’s become known for, beginning with a jazz hot rendition of “Let Me Entertain You” from Gypsy.

In spite of some sniffles, the 67-year-old bombshell had the audience on its feet, and at other times in tears as she worked her way through her Sondheim repertoire, including “Buddy’s Eyes,” “Losing My Mind,” and “Send in the Clowns.” While her patter was charming, those who have seen her before recognized her bits between songs (no, she still hasn’t sold the house in Florida).

Backed by a combo that included Joseph Thalken (musical director/piano), Cubby O’Brien (drums), and Kevin Axt (bass), Peters captivated on sultry numbers like “Fever” and “Come On-A My House,” proving her musicality soars far behind the heartfelt ballad. Though the song list leaned heavy in the back-to-back ballad department, one can’t deny that she’s the real deal and a true Broadway star.

Fall programming continues with NJPAC and NJTV’s American Songbook Series, hosted by Ted Chapin:

(Photo provided by NJPAC.)

(Photo provided by NJPAC.)

October 25, 7 p.m.
Defying Gravity: Stephen Schwartz and Friends
Featuring Jessie Mueller, Jarrod Spector and Marilyn Maye

(Photo provided by NJPAC.)

(Photo provided by NJPAC.)

October 26, 7 p.m.
Our Time: KT Sullivan & Jeff Harnar Sing Sondheim
Featuring Catherine Russell, Seth Rudetsky, and special guest Christine Ebersole

And there’s more!

November 9, 7 p.m.
The Real Sinatra Songbook
Featuring Tom Wopat, Sue Raney and Kevin Mahogany

November 21, 6 p.m., 8:30 pm.
Laura Benanti

For more information and to purchase tickets, visit

Three to See: August

August 5th, 2015 Comments off


Carleigh Bettiol, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Leslie Odom Jr., and Anthony Ramos in "Hamilton" (photo: Joan Marcus via The Broadway Blog.)

Carleigh Bettiol, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Leslie Odom Jr., and Anthony Ramos in The Public Theatre’s production of “Hamilton” (photo: Joan Marcus via The Broadway Blog.)

Touted as the greatest theatrical endeavor to hit Broadway since A Chorus Line, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s hip-hop retelling of Alexander Hamilton’s life and times has raked in a whopping $30 million advance sale. Is it worth it? Absolutely. History never looked so good.

Richard Rogers Theatre
226 West 46th Street
Opening night: August 6

Patrick Page, Kate Burton, Hamish Linklater, and Teagle F. Bougere in 'Cymbeline' (photo: Carol Rosegg via The Broadway Blog.)

Patrick Page, Kate Burton, Hamish Linklater, and Teagle F. Bougere in ‘Cymbeline’ (photo: Carol Rosegg via The Broadway Blog.)

A Shakespearean fairytale, Cymbeline is the story of Princess Imogen’s fidelity that is put to the royal test when her disapproving father banishes her soul mate. Cross-dressing girls and boys, poisons and swordfights, and dastardly villains all take the stage in this enchanting romp about the conquering power of love. Plus, who can resist a free evening of theater under the stars in Central Park?

The Delacorte Theatre in Central Park
Opening night: August 10



If you’re looking for a reason to take a theatrical road trip, head to American Repertory Theatre to catch Tony Award winner Jessie Mueller in the new musical, Waitress. With a book by Jessie Nelson and music and lyrics by Grammy-nominated Sara Bareilles, the story follows a down-on-her-luck, small town waitress as she pursues big dreams when a pie contest (and the town’s new doctor) offers her a chance at her dreams. Directed by Pippin’s Diane Paulus, we’re expecting compelling musical drama but without the circus tricks.

American Repertory Theatre
64 Brattle Street, Cambridge, MA
Opening night: August 19

Matthew Wexler is the Broadway Blog’s editor. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @roodeloo.

Listen: Special Cast Album Podcast of “Beautiful – The Carol King Musical”

January 13th, 2015 Comments off

beautifulartworkGhostlight Records announced today that a podcast containing exclusive commentary from cast members of the Tony Award-winning hit Beautiful—The Carole King Musical is now available for download. Interspersed with song clips from the musical, the podcast, which features annotations from original Beautiful cast members Jessie Mueller, Jake Epstein, Anika Larsen, and Jarrod Spector along with Grammy Award-winners Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann, is comprised of track-by-track commentary and behind-the-scenes details about the show, the making of the album, and the history behind the iconic songs.

Beautiful – The Carole King Musical celebrates one year on Broadway at the Sondheim Theatre (124 West 43 Street) this week, where it’s still playing to sold-out crowds. The Broadway Cast Recording, released on Ghostlight Records in 2014, is now the best-selling Grammy Award nominated Cast Album of the year.

Jessie Mueller in "Beautiful—The Carole King Musical." (photo: Joan Marcus)

Jessie Mueller in “Beautiful—The Carole King Musical.”
(photo: Joan Marcus)

The podcast, the only content of this type amongst the Musical Theater Cast Album Grammy Award nominees, is available for free download on iTunes.

With a book by Tony and Academy Award-nominee Douglas McGrath, direction by Marc Bruni and choreography by Josh Prince, Beautiful features a stunning array of beloved songs written by Gerry Goffin/Carole King and Barry Mann/Cynthia Weil.

The current Broadway cast of Beautiful includes Tony Award-winner Jessie Mueller as Carole King, Scott J. Campbell as Gerry Goffin, and Tony Award-nominees Anika Larsen and Jarrod Spector as Cynthia Weil’ and Barry Mann.

As previously announced, the show will expand to London, with a West End production opening at The Aldwych Theatre this February, and will also launch a U.S. National Tour in September 2015.

Review: Beautiful, The Carole King Musical

January 21st, 2014 Comments off

Broadway Blog editor Matthew Wexler goes on a musical journey at Beautiful: The Carole King Musical.

The cast of "Beautiful: The Carole King Musical." (photo: Joan Marcus)

The cast of “Beautiful: The Carole King Musical.” (photo: Joan Marcus)

Jessie Mueller enters the stage at the beginning of Beautiful—The Carole King Musical, the latest biopic tale to open on Broadway, and you can’t help but be captivated by her maxi dress, free-flowing hair and natural report with the audience. Mueller burst onto the scene in several years ago in the ill-received revival of On a Clear Day You Can See Forever and still managed to snag a Tony Award nomination for her spot-on performance and jazz-inflected vocals. She has since appeared as Cinderella in the Public Theatre revival of Into the Woods and the Roundabout’s revival of The Mystery of Edwin Drood. Make no mistake: Mueller is a chameleon—adept at shifting gears from character actress to ingénue.

In this case, she is saddled with a formulaic book by Douglas McGrath that is so polite and non-confrontational that it leaks any dramatic tension out of the piece. By the middle of Act 1, it’s clear that King and cohorts are going to chat about some theme or creative struggle, namedrop a portion of lyric or song title, then—Pizazz!—The Drifters or The Shirelles appear to deliver the goods.

Jessie Mueller in "Beautiful—The Carole King Musical." (photo: Joan Marcus)

Jessie Mueller in “Beautiful—The Carole King Musical.”
(photo: Joan Marcus)

Most are familiar with King’s work from Tapestry, the 1971 album that earned four Grammy Awards. The song cycle deeply tapped into King’s personal life and helped define the ‘70s era of pop vocals, but her songwriting legacy includes dozens of hits, written in partnership with her husband Gerry Goffin (earnestly portrayed by Jake Epstein). The duo befriended and had a longstanding rivalry with the lyricist/composer team of Cynthia Weil (Anika Larsen) and Barry Mann (Jarrod Spector).

In the musical’s context, these relationships never reach a pinnacle. Goffin’s mood swings (manic depression?) contribute to the dissolve of his marriage to King, but even when tempted with an affair, he tells her first. Although this may be how the facts played out, it certainly doesn’t make for dramatic tension. Nor does the sugarcoated professional competition between the two couples that remain besties through the years as they each vie for the next hit song.

Director Marc Bruni and the design team keep things moving at a brisk pace. The show is tightly directed and seamlessly flows from the songwriters to the pop artists that shared their work with the world. The hard-working ensemble takes on these musical icons, and while they look and sound incredibly polished, there is a decidedly “Broadway” sound to their vocal delivery. Two blocks away, the supporting cast of A Night with Janis Joplin, deliver interpretations of Bessie Smith, Nina Simone, Etta James and Aretha Franklin with more vocal authenticity.

Criticism aside, Beautiful delivers an entertaining evening of theater, and while you may feel at times that “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling,” Jessie Mueller’s performance is, indeed, “Beautiful.”

Beautiful—The Carole King Musical
Stephen Sondheim Theater
124 West 43rd Street

Take a peek at Beautiful on Broadway…

Three to See: January

January 2nd, 2014 Comments off

New for 2014, The Broadway Blog’s editor Matthew Wexler offers three picks at the beginning of each month: what’s opening on Broadway and beyond and why you shouldn’t miss them.

The cast of "Beautiful - the Carole King Musical." (photo: Joan Marcus)

The cast of “Beautiful – the Carole King Musical.” (photo: Joan Marcus)

Beautiful – The Carole King Musical

“You make me feel like a natural woman.” — at least that’s what Tony Award-nominee Jessie Mueller hopes as she takes on the iconic singer/songwriter in this latest attempt at a musical memoire. If anyone has the chops, it’s Mueller, who was the saving grace in a recent revival of On a Clear Day You Can See Forever as well as standout performances in Into the Woods in Central Park and The Mystery of Edwin Drood. Our prediction is another Tony nomination for Mueller and if Douglas McGrath’s book holds up to the Carole King songbook, a win.

Beautiful – The Carole King Musical
Opening night: January 12

Simon Russell Beale as King Lear at the National Theatre. (photo: Paul Stewart)

Simon Russell Beale as King Lear at the National Theatre. (photo: Paul Stewart)

King Lear

For those of us stateside with a penchant for iambic pentameter, Frank Langella takes on the title role in King Lear at BAM beginning January 7, but it is the National Theatre’s production in London that has us screaming “come not between the dragon and his wrath.” The production, directed by Sam Mendes and starring Simon Russell Beale, is so hotly anticipated that you can’t even get a ticket until March. If you’re not heading across the pond this spring, mark your calendar for May 1, when the production will be broadcast live throughout the world as part of National Theatre Live.

King Lear
Opening night: January 14


Venus in Fur

If you didn’t catch the Broadway production of this sexually charged play by David Ives, head to Beantown where Huntington Theatre Company’s (winner of the 2013 Tony Award for best regional theater) production opens on January 8. “This savage, sexy, smart, and funny new play took my breath away. Director Daniel Goldstein set our stage on fire with God of Carnage, and I know he will make our new production the hottest date night in Boston,” says artistic director Peter Dubois. Hear what he has to say…

Venus in Fur
Opening night: January 8


Review: “Beautiful: The Carole King Musical”

October 15th, 2013 Comments off

Contributing editor Jim Gladstone offers a sneak peek at the Broadway-bound Beautiful: The Carole King Musical.

Jessie Mueller (photo: Nathan Johnson)

Jessie Mueller (photo: Nathan Johnson)

Singer-songwriter Carole King sewed up her status as a smart, sensitive, women’s lib-era icon with the classic 1971 album,Tapestry. The theatrical version of her life story— currently in a pre-Broadway run in San Francisco—is more of a patchwork affair. The show is enormously entertaining thanks to the outstanding cast’s performances of hits by King, her first husband Gerry Goffin, and their compatriot songwriting couple Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann, but Beautiful: The Carole King Musical is also stiltedly dutiful to the formulas of standard-issue celebrity biography and the contemporary jukebox musical.

Carly Hughes, Alysha Deslorieux, Rashidra Scott and Ashley Blanchet. (photo: Joan Marcus)

Carly Hughes, Alysha Deslorieux, Rashidra Scott and Ashley Blanchet. (photo: Joan Marcus)

Bookended by scenes set at King’s June, 1971 Carnegie Hall debut, Douglas McGrath’s script unimaginatively shorthands its way from 16-year-old King (nee Klein) fantasizing about songwriting, to a meet-cute romance with Goffin, to the couple’s initial Brill Building success, their marital dissolution, and King’s eventual emergence as an empowered, self-sufficient single woman.

The captivating Jessie Mueller brings a palpable warmth and affecting ache to her renditions of “A Natural Woman” and “It’s Too Late”—but that’s too little to lift the show to truly formidable heights. Beautiful metronomes along in a connect-the-dots, lets-get-to-the-next-song format that, frankly, aligns quite well with the commercial song factory mode of the early ‘60s music business, when King and Goffin knocked out timeless pop baubles like the Shirelles’ “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow,” Little Eva’s “The Loco-Motion,” and the Drifters’ “Some King of Wonderful” (all performed here by an impeccable singing and dancing ensemble).

But as King’s songwriting evolves from calculated craft toward personal art—less formulaic and more psychologically acute—neither McGrath’s book or director Marc Bruni’s staging offers a comparable stylistic shift. The quick-stepping hit parade of the first act mirrors King’s upbeat rapid rise to success as a work-for-hire composer, but act two of Beautiful fails to effectively connect King’s interior emotional searching with the looser, flowing structures of the compositions she wrote for herself as a performer.

That said, Beautiful as a whole is intended as a commercial confection, more akin to King’s Brill Building efforts than her later work: It’s a bright, snappy song-delivery system. While Beautiful shows occasional glimpses of the ambition to emulate Dreamgirls, it settles for being Jersey Boys with a shot of estrogen and a sprinkling of granola. It doesn’t make you feel the earth move under your feet, but it certainly gets your toes tapping.

The cast of "Beautiful: The Carole King Musical." (photo: Joan Marcus)

The cast of “Beautiful: The Carole King Musical.” (photo: Joan Marcus)

TO SEE OR NOT TO SEE: “The Mystery of Edwin Drood”

November 14th, 2012 Comments off

The Cast of "The Mystery of Edwin Drood". Photo by Joan Marcus.


Rupert Holmes’s tongue-in-cheek, tongue-twisting, Tony-winning musical with an audience-voted ending (based on Charles Dicken’s unfinished novel of vengeful passions) gets a Broadway revival starring Chita Rivera, Stephanie J. Block and Will Chase.

“The machinations of the mystery plot dance in dizzying rhythmic counterpoint to the story framing the musical…even as [the cast of characters] bicker and mug and tell hoary jokes to cajole the audience into a state of happy delirium.”  New York Times

…for a show doing triple duty as musical, choose-your-own-ending mystery and time-travel device, Drood is jolly good fun.”  New York Post

“…all the affectionately antiquated whimsy never quite adds up to robust entertainment.”  The Hollywood Reporter

Drood, ultimately, is not a complete show so much as an expandable playspace, and with performers of this caliber, an evening of yeasty, nudge-nudge-wink-wink British good humor is more or less guaranteed.”  New York Magazine

Read more…