The razzle-dazzle sequin costumes, jazz hands, and cheesy grins that you're used to seeing on the Great White Way is *so* yesterday. Waitress the Musical, adapted from the 2007 film, ditches the tired "damsel in distress" narrative and provides women (and all people) with a fresh, relatable story, set to contemporary, soulful music.
What separates Waitress from any other musical is the imperfection it captures. It's a universal story about real characters, going through real life sh*t. The musical revolves around Jenna Hunterson, a small-town diner waitress, faced with the decision of sticking with her miserable marriage, raising a child with a man whom she does not love, and serving to get by, or forging her own path by raising a child alone and embracing her dream of opening up her own pie shop. There's really no riding off into the sunset with a knight in shining armor in this story. "People can watch this and say, 'That's me. That's my friend. That's my sister. I know that person,' says director Diane Paulus. 'I feel for that character, because I understand it'...that's why people love this show."
Grammy nominated singer-songwriter Sara Bareilles' score really helps all of the characters come to life, according to Paulus. "Her music just cuts right across that proscenium and enters your gut and your heart and your mind," Paulus says. Which, really, probably comes as no surprise. If you're a human being with a pulse, you need a moment after hearing any of her most popular, emotion-filled hits, like "Gravity (opens in new tab)," "Brave (opens in new tab)," and "I Choose You (opens in new tab)," (whether you admit it or not), and can understand why Sara is such an integral part of this powerful creative team.
Tony Award-winning director Paulus is no stranger to making Broadway history happen—she cast Tony winner Patina Miller as the Leading Player in the 2013 revival of Pippin, the first woman to take on the iconic role—and Waitress is no exception when it comes to forging new paths for women in theater: it is the first Broadway musical to have six main creative roles fulfilled by females, including Paulus, composer and lyricist Bareilles, book writer Jessie Nelson, choreographer Lorin Latarro, music director Nadia DiGiallonardo, and costume designer Suttirat Lalarb. But the most important takeaway is not just that the creative team is made up of women. These artists are at the top of their field, regardless of their gender.
Paulus discusses the influence of the visibility of female role models, not only in the realm of theater, but simply normalizing women in leadership roles in general. Seeing women creating incredible work is exactly what young women need in 2016 to realize their own potential. "What I'm happy about in terms of noting this historic moment," she says, "is that we can celebrate this, and shed a light on it, not so much to pat ourselves on the back at all, but just to send a signal to the next generation of young women." Ultimately, Waitress is about one woman's quest for self-fulfillment, while behind the scenes, there are amazing women paving the way for other women's success. "Here we are," Paulus states, "it's the twenty-first century. We are here and you can be here too."
With a cast led by Tony winner Jessie Mueller, Waitress opens in Broadway previews March 25th at 8pm, and begins its official Broadway run on April 24th at the Brooks Atkinson Theater.
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Mara is a freelance writer and editor specializing in culture, politics, wellness, and the intersection between them, whose print and digital work has appeared in Marie Claire, Women’s Health, Cosmopolitan, Airbnb Mag, Prevention, and more. She’s a Fordham University graduate who also has a degree in Italian Studies, so naturally she’s always daydreaming about focaccia.
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