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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 When Jenna goes to see her longtime family doctor, she discovers that she’s retired and has been replaced by the gangly and flirtatious Dr.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.)

Waitress
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.)

Waitress
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.

Waitress
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 

BONUS PICK

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.

Listen: Sara Bareilles’ ‘What’s Inside: Songs From Waitress’

November 5th, 2015 Comments off

Sara BareillesMulti-platinum selling, Grammy nominated singer-songwriter and New York Times best-selling author Sara Bareilles is releasing her highly anticipated new studio album this fall through Epic Records. Entitled What’s Inside: Songs From Waitress, the album features songs from the upcoming Broadway musical Waitress, for which she wrote both music and lyrics. The musical, which will open at Broadway’s Brooks Atkinson Theatre on April 24, 2016, with previews beginning March 25, had a recent run at The American Repertory Theater (A.R.T.) in Cambridge, MA, where it played through September.

Reuniting with KALEIDOSCOPE HEART producer Neal Avron, the album was recorded in New York and Los Angeles and is Sara’s much-anticipated follow-up to her highly-acclaimed, Grammy-nominated third studio album “The Blessed Unrest.”  The album’s first single, “She Used to Be Mine,” is available at iTunes and all digital retailers now.

Sara Bareilles (Ga Fullner / Shutterstock.com)

Sara Bareilles (Ga Fullner / Shutterstock.com)

Amazon is carrying a special deluxe version of the album packaged in a menu-themed oversized booklet at Amazon.com . This limited-edition package contains exclusive photos and excerpts from Sara’s personal Waitress journal along with drink coasters, a postcard from Sara, and more.

Bareilles recently released her first book, Sounds Like Me: My Life (So Far) In Song, on October 6 via Simon & Schuster. The book, which made the New York Times Best Sellers List, is a collection of personal essays which among other things, tells the inside stories behind some of her most popular songs, including “Love Song,” “Gravity,” and her most recent hit, “Brave.”

The Broadway production of Waitress will star Jessie Mueller, winner of the 2014 Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical for Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, with additional casting to be announced. Based on the 2007 motion picture written by Adrienne Shelly, the new musical has a book by Jessie Nelson, music and lyrics by five-time Grammy Award-nominated singer songwriter Sara Bareilles and direction by Tony Award-winner Diane Paulus.

Jenna (Jessie Mueller) is a waitress and expert pie maker stuck in a small town and a loveless marriage. Faced with an unexpected pregnancy, Jenna fears she may have to abandon the dream of opening her own pie shop forever… until a baking contest in a nearby county and the town’s handsome new doctor offer her a tempting recipe for happiness. Supported by her quirky crew of fellow waitresses and loyal customers, Jenna summons the secret ingredient she’s been missing all along—courage.

Three to See: August

August 5th, 2015 Comments off

HAMILTON

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.

Hamilton
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.)

CYMBELINE
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?

Cymbeline
The Delacorte Theatre in Central Park
Opening night: August 10

 

1516-waitress-wide

Waitress
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.

Waitress
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.