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“This has been the most incredible journey, so challenging in so many ways that I never expected,” she told The Hollywood Reporter at the show’s opening night on Sunday. “I’m so proud of the work. Now I get to sit back and watch people connect to the storytelling.”
The chart-topping singer-songwriter did so in a historical way — Waitress is also the first-ever Broadway musical with an all-female creative team, as Bareilles’ music and lyrics are served with Jessie Nelson’s book, Lorin Latarro’s choreography and Diane Paulus’ direction.
“It’s this important landmark for Broadway, but I hope it’s also a signal to the next generation of women who are aspiring choreographers, directors, writers or composers to say, ‘Yes, this is possible,’ ” said Paulus of the milestone. “Every woman is in their role because they’re the best person for the job.”
The musical adaptation of the 2007 indie film stars Tony winner Jessie Mueller as Jenna, a pregnant, unhappily married diner waitress who hopes her extraordinary pies will allow her a better life.
“I want to believe that Jenna is telling the story of the human condition: everyone essentially exists in this place that is so flawed but so deserving of love,” Bareilles explained. “She’s extraordinary in a lot of very ordinary ways, and everyone’s a little bit f—ed up and odd and eccentric and messy. But they’re doing the best they can.”
Jenna’s story doesn’t necessarily end in romance, which is a rare outcome for a female character on Broadway, said Mueller. “It’s not saying that ending up with a partner is not a good thing, but it’s a powerful message to put out there: to find a partner in life, you have to know and love yourself first. It’s important to have shows out there that investigate when a person is coming into their own and having a moment of self-acceptance.”
Added Paulus, “This narrative ends with a woman on her own, raising a child by herself, running a business in a community of family and friends. I don’t think there are a lot of Broadway musicals — or anything else — that end that way.”
After the performance — attended by Larry David, Darren Criss and Tony Danza, among others — the cast headed to a Bryant Park Grill bash with Tyson diner items like pancakes, bacon and grits, plus a spread of Sara Lee pies. There was more to celebrate than just Waitress, as the wife of the show’s stagehand went into labor in the middle of the opening night performance.
From left: Keala Settle, Jessie Mueller and Kimiko Glenn at the Waitress opening night curtain call
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