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Jessie Mueller, the fast-rising Broadway star who won a lead actress Tony Award this year for the title role in Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, may be turning her talents from songwriting to baked goods.
According to an unconfirmed report in The New York Times, Mueller has identified Waitress as her next major stage project.
The developing musical is based on the 2007 Fox Searchlight indie hit of the same name, which grossed north of $19 million domestically. It starred Keri Russell as a pregnant, unhappily married diner server in the Deep South who makes extraordinary pies. She hopes that the prize money from a baking contest may provide her with the means to start a new life.
The film co-starred Cheryl Hines and writer-director Adrienne Shelly, whose murder in her Manhattan apartment cast a shadow over the release. Also featured in the cast were Nathan Fillion, Jeremy Sisto and Andy Griffith.
Singer-songwriter Sara Bareilles will make her musical-theater debut as composer on the project, which is slated for a tryout production at the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, Mass., during the 2015-16 season. Broadway plans are expected to follow.
The show will be staged by Diane Paulus, artistic director at ART, whose recent successes have included revivals of Hair, Porgy and Bess and Pippin, for which she won a Tony Award. Paulus is also directing the incoming musical Finding Neverland, which opens on Broadway in the spring. Veteran producers Barry and Fran Weissler, who are behind Pippin and Broadway’s long-running Chicago revival, are developing Waitress.
Pulitzer-winning playwright Paula Vogel had been attached to write the book for the show, but withdrew from the project early this year. No replacement writer has been announced.
Watch more Tonys Awards: THR’s 2014 Actress Roundtable
After turning heads on the Chicago stage, Mueller burst onto the New York theater scene in 2011, earning a Tony nomination as featured actress in an otherwise tepidly received gender-reversed revival of On a Clear Day You Can See Forever. She followed with roles in The Mystery of Edwin Drood, Nice Work If You Can Get It and a Shakespeare in the Park production of Into the Woods before landing the lead role in Beautiful.
The Carole King bio-musical has been one of the major hits of the 2013-14 season, with consistent grosses of more than $1 million a week and a cumulative total through Nov. 23 of $55.5 million. The $13 million production recouped its investment and moved into profit in September; it continues to be a stellar performer at the box office.
Mueller is scheduled to play her final performance in Beautiful on March 6, 2015.
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