Waitress (musical)

Waitress is a musical with music and lyrics by Sara Bareilles and a book by Jessie Nelson. The musical is based on the 2007 film of the same name, written by Adrienne Shelly. It tells the story of Jenna Hunterson, a baker and waitress in an abusive relationship with her husband Earl. After Jenna unexpectedly becomes pregnant, she begins an affair with her doctor, Dr. Jim Pomatter. Looking for ways out of her troubles, she sees a pie baking contest and its grand prize as her chance.

Waitress musical Broadway poster.jpg
2016 Broadway poster
MusicSara Bareilles
LyricsSara Bareilles
BookJessie Nelson
by Adrienne Shelly
PremiereAugust 19, 2015 (2015-08-19): American Repertory Theater, Cambridge
Productions2015 Cambridge
2016 Broadway
2017 U.S. tour
2019 West End

After a tryout at the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in August 2015, Waitress premiered at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre on Broadway in April 2016 with direction by Diane Paulus and starring Jessie Mueller as Jenna. A U.S. national tour ran from 2017 to 2019. From 2019 to 2020, the musical played at the Adelphi Theatre in London's West End.


The musical is based on the 2007 indie film[1] Waitress.[2] The film was produced on a budget of just $1.5 million, earning over $23 million in global box office receipts.[3] The film starred Keri Russell, and was written and directed by Adrienne Shelly. The film follows Jenna, a waitress and pie chef living in the American South, who unexpectedly becomes pregnant and feels trapped in an unhappy marriage.[4] Looking for a way out, she sees a pie contest and its grand prize as her chance.[5]

Following the 2013 Tony Awards, producers Barry and Fran Weissler announced that a musical version of the film was in the works,[6] with Paula Vogel writing the book, Sara Bareilles writing the music and lyrics, and direction by Diane Paulus.[7] The Weisslers purchased the stage rights to the film shortly after its release in 2007.[8] Paula Vogel withdrew from the project in January 2014.[9] On December 11, 2014, the musical was officially confirmed, and it was announced that the show would receive its world premiere at the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, Massachusetts, as part of their 2015–2016 season, with Jessie Nelson now writing the book.[10][11] A workshop was held the same month in New York City, with Jessie Mueller, Keala Settle, Christopher Fitzgerald, Bryce Pinkham and Andy Karl, among others, taking part.[12] Nelson, with the blessing of the late Adrienne Shelly's husband, used some of Shelly's unfinished scripts to help bring "her voice" to the project.[13]


Production Venue/Location First preview Opening night Closing night Notes
Cambridge, Massachusetts American Repertory Theatre August 2, 2015 August 19, 2015 September 27, 2015 Debut production.
Broadway Brooks Atkinson Theatre March 25, 2016 April 24, 2016 January 5, 2020
1st National tour (Equity) Playhouse Square, Cleveland (First); Ed Mirvish Theatre, Toronto (Last) October 17, 2017 October 20, 2017 August 18, 2019
Manila, Philippines Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium, Makati City November 9, 2018 November 9, 2018 December 2, 2018 First non-replica production.
London Adelphi Theatre February 8, 2019 March 8, 2019 March 14, 2020[14] First replica production outside of the US.
Originally set to close on July 4, 2020, but closed four months early due to the COVID-19 pandemic.[14]
Buenos Aires, Argentina Teatro Metropolitan Sura April 17, 2019 April 17, 2019 August 4, 2019 Second non-replica production, first Non-English language production.

Cambridge, Massachusetts (2015)Edit

Waitress began previews at the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on August 2, 2015, before the official opening on August 19, 2015, for a limited run to September 27, 2015.[15][16] Tickets for the production sold out.[17] The show was directed by Diane Paulus,[18] with choreography by Chase Brock,[19] set design by Scott Pask, costume design by Suttirat Anne Larlarb, lighting design by Kenneth Posner, musical direction by Nadia DiGiallonardo, and sound by Jonathan Deans.[20] The cast featured Jessie Mueller as Jenna, Drew Gehling as Jim, Joe Tippett as Earl, Jeanna de Waal as Dawn, Keala Settle as Becky, Dakin Matthews as Joe, Jeremy Morse as Ogie, and Eric Anderson as Cal.[21]

Broadway (2016–2020)Edit

Broadway previews began on March 25, 2016 at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre, with the official opening on April 24,[22] just in time for the April 28 Tony Award cut-off date.[23] Lorin Latarro replaced Brock as choreographer[24] and Christopher Akerlind replaced Posner as lighting designer.[25] For the Broadway production, elements of the book were rewritten, new choreography developed, and a new song written by Bareilles.[8] Manhattan baker Stacy Donnelly and small business owner Dawn Mayo of Everythingdawn Bakery Candles & Treats were hired to ensure that the baking scenes were realistic. Donnelly taught the cast how to work and roll pie dough, as the role of Jenna required Mueller to crack eggs, sift flour and roll out dough on stage. Mayo created all of the prop pies used in the show.[26] Al Roker played the role of "Joe" twice since 2018.[27]

To help immerse audiences, real pies are warming as they enter the theater, creating the aroma of a pie shop; slices of pie are for sale.[28] Cast changes included Nick Cordero taking over the role of Earl,[29] Kimiko Glenn as Dawn, and Christopher Fitzgerald, who took part in the New York workshop, as Ogie.[30] During previews, the production set a new box office record for a single performance at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre, taking in $145,532.[31] The production had required an initial investment of $12 million.[8] During a technical halt at a preview performance, composer and lyricist Sara Bareilles performed two songs, including "Down at the Diner", previously cut from the production.[32]

Waitress made history on Broadway with the four top creative spots in a show being filled by women (Bareilles, Nelson, Latarro, and Paulus).[33] In addition, the costume designer and musical director were women.[25] Bareilles said she was proud to be part of an all-female team: "It's really fun to be an example of the way it can look. We're a bunch of women who are deeply committed to finding a way to build a unified vision."[34] Only the 1978 Broadway musical Runaways had a similar history, with book, music, lyrics, choreography and direction all by Elizabeth Swados.[25]

The production closed on January 5, 2020, after 33 previews and 1,544 regular performances.[22]

U.S. national tours (2017–present)Edit

The first U.S. national tour, starring Desi Oakley as Jenna, Lenne Klingaman as Dawn, Charity Angel Dawson as Becky, and Bryan Fenkart as Dr. Pomatter, began at Playhouse Square in Cleveland on October 20, 2017 and closed on August 18, 2019.[35] The second non-Equity national tour, starring Bailey McCall as Jenna, Kennedy Salters as Becky, Gabriella Marzetta as Dawn, and David Socolar as Dr. Pomatter, opened on November 12, 2019 and was scheduled to continue through June 28, 2020.[36] Because of the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, many performances have been cancelled or rescheduled through July, 2021[37].

West End (2019–2020)Edit

The production opened in London's West End on February 8, 2019 (previews) at the Adelphi Theatre and featured Katharine McPhee as Jenna, who had previously played the role on Broadway, and Jack McBrayer as Ogie.[38][39][40] Lucie Jones took over the role of Jenna on June 17, 2019.[41] Desi Oakley made a return to the show in London as Jenna after playing the role on the US tour for a 2 week period beginning January 13. This was when Jones as well as her understudies, Sarah O’Connor and Olivia Moore, were ill and therefore unable to perform. Bareilles and Gavin Creel reunited in London on January 28, 2020.[42] Though set to have an eight week engagement, they left London after their performance on 14 March due to travel restrictions imposed during the COVID-19 pandemic.[43]

The production was scheduled to end on July 4, 2020, but it closed on March 14, when West End theatres shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic; the producers later announced the show will not re-open. Jones was due to return following Bareilles's run.[44]

The production is scheduled to tour the UK beginning in November.[45]

International productionsEdit

The first international production, produced by Atlantis Theatrical, debuted in November 2018 at the Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium in Manila, Philippines, featuring Joanna Ampil as Jenna.[46]

A Spanish language production (locally translated Camarera) debuted in Buenos Aires, Argentina, at the Metropolitan Sura Theatre on April 17, 2019 and featured Josefina Scaglione, Tony award nominee for the 2009 West Side Story Broadway revival, as Jenna (locally translated to Gina).[47] The production closed on August 4, 2019.[48]

The Gordon Frost Organisation is planning a production to open in 2020 at the Lyric Theatre in Sydney. Casting and dates are to be announced.[49] Another production is planned to play in The Netherlands featuring Willemijn Verkaik as Jenna and Jonathan Demoor as Dr. Pomatter.[50] The production is then planned to tour across the country.[51][52]

A Danish language production is set to open at the Det Ny Teater in Copenhagen in March 2021, starring Maria Lucia Rosenberg as Jenna and Lars Mølsted as Dr. Pomatter.[53]

On July 3rd, 2020 Teatr Muzyczny Roma in Warsaw, Poland announced the Polish production in 2020/2021 season. It will be third non-replica production worldwide and Polish is the second language into which this play will be translated. [54]


Act IEdit

Jenna is a waitress and expert pie baker at Joe's Diner in the American South who imagines tough situations as pie ingredients ("What's Inside"). She begins another day at the diner with her boss Cal and waitresses Becky and Dawn ("Opening Up"). After she almost throws up, Becky and Dawn convince her to take a pregnancy test which, to Jenna's dismay, comes back positive due to a drunken night with her abusive husband, Earl ("The Negative"). Earl comes to the diner and suggests he may make Jenna quit and give up her passion for baking. He takes the tips she's earned from working so far that day. She decides not to tell him about the pregnancy and recalls her late mother, who also found solace from an unhappy marriage in baking ("What Baking Can Do").

At her OB/GYN's office, Jenna is taunted by other pregnant women ("Club Knocked Up") and meets Dr. Jim Pomatter, a new doctor from Connecticut. Jenna explains she does not want her baby but is going to keep it, and leaves Dr. Pomatter with a Mermaid Marshmallow pie, which, despite the fact that he is off sugar, he eats and loves it ("Pomatter Pie").

Word of Jenna's pregnancy reaches Joe, the diner's curmudgeonly owner, who suggests she enter a local pie-baking contest with a large reward which would allow her to leave her husband. Dawn has turned to online dating but is terrified of what could happen ("When He Sees Me").

Jenna runs into Dr. Pomatter at the bus stop. He compliments her pie, saying it could "win contests and ribbons and things". ("It Only Takes a Taste"). Jenna arrives home to learn Earl has been fired. He berates her, and his anger almost turns physical until she confesses she is pregnant. He makes her promise not to love the baby more than him ("You Will Still Be Mine"). Jenna tells Dawn and Becky her plan to enter the pie contest and use the winnings to leave Earl for a new life with the baby. The three waitresses see their dreams of a better life within reach ("A Soft Place to Land"). Jenna begins to give Earl only half her earnings, hiding the other half around the house in order to save up for entering the pie contest.

Dawn's date Ogie visits the diner and insists he get to know Dawn better ("Never Ever Getting Rid of Me"). Dawn and Ogie realize they both enjoy American Revolution reenactments and how much they have in common. Jenna makes an appointment with Dr. Pomatter, where she impulsively kisses him. Though both are married, they decide to escape their frustrating lives, and have sex in his office ("Bad Idea").

Act IIEdit

After her tryst, Jenna discovers Becky and Cal making out at the diner. The married Becky is unashamed of giving in to passion ("I Didn't Plan It"). Jenna and Dr. Pomatter continue their affair, as do Becky and Cal, and Dawn and Ogie ("Bad Idea (Reprise)"). Jenna wonders if their affair is a mistake, but Dr. Pomatter reassures her. She begins writing a mental note to her baby ("You Matter To Me").

Several months pass and Dawn and Ogie marry ("I Love You Like a Table"). At the reception, Jenna asks if Cal, despite his affair, is truly happy; he responds that he is "happy enough." Joe tells Jenna his sincere hopes for her ("Take it From an Old Man"). Earl drags Jenna home and uncovers the money she has been hiding. She meekly tells him she has been saving for the baby, but Earl leaves with the money ("Dear Baby"). Jenna breaks down, lamenting her long-lost control over her life ("She Used To Be Mine").

Jenna goes into labor ("Contraction Ballet"). She sees Joe at the hospital on his way to surgery; knowing he is dying, he gives her an envelope to open later. Earl, Becky and Dawn, and even Dr. Pomatter's wife, who is a resident at the hospital, crowd the delivery room, and Jenna cries out in distress, giving birth in darkness. She names her daughter Lulu. Earl reminds her of her promise not to love Lulu more than him, and Jenna finally tells him she wants a divorce. He reacts poorly, and she vows to run him over if she ever sees him again. Dr. Pomatter visits Jenna alone in her room, but Jenna refuses his kiss. Saying she doesn't want to remain "happy enough", she ends the affair. As thanks for his positive impact on her life, she gives him a moon pie. Jenna remarks on her change in outlook with Lulu in her life ("Everything Changes").

Jenna opens Joe's note to discover he has left her the diner, asking her to name a pie after him. A few years later, the diner has been rechristened "Lulu's Pies" and Jenna, the owner and head chef, is content that her life has finally turned around ("Opening Up (Finale)").


Waitress features an original score, with music and lyrics by American singer-songwriter Sara Bareilles.[55] Nadia DiGiallonardo orchestrated the show and conducted the original Broadway orchestra. The musical uses a six-member orchestra consisting of keyboard, piano, cello, guitar, bass and drums.[56] In addition to the show's musical numbers, Bareilles also recorded the "turn off your cellphone" message, rewriting part of her original song "Cassiopeia".[57]

Musical numbersEdit

2016 Broadway Production

† Not included on Original Broadway Playbill.

*Not included on Original Broadway Cast Recording.

‡ When June Squibb entered the cast of Waitress on Broadway in 2018, she was announced to be playing "Josie" (the gender-modified character name of "Joe"). In return, the song title and all frequent uses of the word "Man" was changed to "Ma'am" for her performance run.


Bareilles recorded her fifth studio album, What's Inside: Songs from Waitress, featuring songs from the musical. It was released through Epic Records on November 6, 2015.[59] The album debuted at number ten on the U.S. Billboard 200 chart with 30,000 equivalent album units in its first week of release, giving Barellies her fifth top-ten album.[60] The lead single from the album, "She Used to Be Mine", was released digitally on September 25, 2015.[61] Speaking about the release of the album, Bareilles stated that her decision to record an album of the songs came because it "proved impossible for me to imagine handing over the songs to the show before selfishly finding a way to sing them myself."[62]

The original Broadway cast recording was released as a digital download on June 3, and the physical release followed on July 1, 2016.[63] The album was produced by Bareilles with Neal Avron, and recorded by DMI Soundtracks.[64]

Track listingEdit

1."What's Inside"Jessie Mueller, Ensemble1:32
2."Opening Up"Mueller, Keala Settle, Kimiko Glenn, Eric Anderson, Ensemble2:32
3."The Negative"Settle, Glenn, Mueller2:28
4."What Baking Can Do"Mueller3:30
5."Club Knocked Up"Aisha Jackson, Stephanie Torns, Molly Hager, Charity Angél Dawson0:46
6."Pomatter Pie"The Waitress Band1:01
7."When He Sees Me"Glenn, Mueller, Settle, Ensemble3:43
8."It Only Takes a Taste"Drew Gehling, Mueller3:09
9."You Will Still Be Mine"Nick Cordero, Mueller2:18
10."A Soft Place to Land"Mueller, Settle, Glenn2:57
11."Never Ever Getting Rid of Me"Christopher Fitzgerald, Glenn, Ensemble2:16
12."Bad Idea"Mueller, Gehling, Ensemble3:07
13."I Didn't Plan It"Settle2:40
14."Bad Idea (Reprise)"Gehling, Mueller, Settle, Anderson, Glenn, Fitzgerald, Ensemble1:03
15."You Matter to Me"Gehling, Mueller4:21
16."I Love You Like a Table"Fitzgerald, Glenn, Ensemble1:56
17."Take It from an Old Man"Dakin Matthews, Ensemble2:37
18."Dear Baby"Mueller0:37
19."She Used to Be Mine"Mueller4:20
20."Contraction Ballet"Mueller, Ensemble1:02
21."Everything Changes"Mueller, Settle, Glenn, Ensemble3:02
22."Opening Up (Finale)"Company1:44


The characters and original casts:

Character Broadway
1st US tour
West End
Jenna Hunterson Jessie Mueller Desi Oakley Katharine McPhee
Dr. Jim Pomatter Drew Gehling Bryan Fenkart David Hunter
Earl Hunterson Nick Cordero Nick Bailey Peter Hannah
Becky Keala Settle Charity Angél Dawson Marisha Wallace
Dawn Kimiko Glenn Lenne Klingaman Laura Baldwin
Joe/Josie Dakin Matthews Larry Marshall Shaun Prendergast
Ogie Anhorn Christopher Fitzgerald Jeremy Morse Jack McBrayer
Cal Eric Anderson Ryan G. Dunkin Stephen Leask
Nurse Norma Charity Angél Dawson Maiesha McQueen Kelly Agbowu
Lulu Hunterson Claire Keane
McKenna Keane
Harper Schmid
Meredith Wakefield
Fifi Christophers
Arabella Duffy

Notable Broadway replacementsEdit

*Notable that June Squibb is the only woman to have portrayed Joe/Josie in a professional production of the show.

Notable West End replacementsEdit

Critical responseEdit

The show garnered generally mixed-to-positive reviews in both runs. Frank Rizzo, reviewing the Boston production for Variety, wrote: "...making Earl so relentlessly horrible makes Jenna's inability to leave him not just indecisive but something more worrisome... Meanwhile, there's little evidence for the good doctor being Jenna's lost soulmate, despite his loving bedside manner,... Mueller's performance transcends the show's imperfections. She's funny, frisky and likable. She sings Bareilles' songs beautifully... director Diane Paulus fills the production with clever touches – a scalloped pie-crust proscenium, a fluid and easygoing flow and a natural truthfulness in the performances."[73]

For the Broadway production, many critics found Bareilles' score and Mueller's performance to be the highlights of the show. Charles Isherwood of The New York Times gave a mixed review of the show, but called Mueller's performance "a high point of the Broadway season".[74] Time Out New York gave the production four stars and said "...Waitress has an excellent ratio of sweet to tart; supporting characters who provide crustiness (Dakin Matthews's grumbly store owner) and flakiness (Christopher Fitzgerald's loony admirer of another waitress); and cooked-to-perfection staging by Diane Paulus. The whole dish is—please forgive me—love at first bite."[75] David Rooney of The Hollywood Reporter said "...the material is anchored at every step by Bareilles' melodious pop score and Mueller's supremely natural performance as Jenna. While the stock characters that surround her may be familiar, they're a winsome bunch played by sterling performers..."[76]

Awards and nominationsEdit

Original Broadway ProductionEdit

Year Award Ceremony Category Nominee Result Ref
2016 Tony Award Best Musical Nominated [77]
Best Original Score Sara Bareilles Nominated
Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical Jessie Mueller Nominated
Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical Christopher Fitzgerald Nominated
Drama Desk Award Outstanding Musical Nominated [78]
Outstanding Actress in a Musical Jessie Mueller Nominated
Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical Christopher Fitzgerald Won
Outstanding Outstanding Book of a Musical Jessie Nelson Nominated
Outstanding Music Sara Bareilles Nominated
Outstanding Lyrics Nominated
Drama League Award Outstanding Production of a Broadway or Off-Broadway Musical Nominated [79]
Distinguished Performance Award Jessie Mueller Nominated
Outer Critics Circle Award Outstanding New Broadway Musical Nominated [80]
Outstanding Actress in a Musical Jessie Mueller Nominated
Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical Christopher Fitzgerald Won
Outstanding New Score (Broadway or off-Broadway) Sara Bareilles Nominated
2017 Grammy Award Best Musical Theater Album Nominated [81]

Original West End ProductionEdit

Year Award Ceremony Category Nominee Result
2020 Laurence Olivier Awards Best New Musical Pending
Original Score or New Orchestrations Sara Bareilles Pending


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