One of the only musicals to be produced by a team of all women, Waitress is making a stop in Austin January 22-27 at Bass Concert Hall.
This empowering show, which has received rave reviews, is also one of the newest musicals in the 2018-19 Broadway Austin season.
Inspired by an Adrienne Shelly film, Waitress tells the story of Jenna, a waitress and expert pie maker who dreams of a way out of her small town and loveless marriage. The combination of a baking contest in a nearby county and the town’s new doctor may offer her a chance at a fresh start. But in the meantime, her fellow waitresses offer Jenna their own recipes for happiness, although ultimately Jenna must summon the strength and courage to rebuild her own life.
Songs like “Brave” and “Love Song” from six-time Grammy nominee Sara Bareilles help bring the musical alive as it celebrates friendship and the magic of a well-made pie.
Ahead of the show’s opening, we spoke with Jessie Shelton, who plays Dawn in the touring musical.
Your character is best friends with Jenna (played by Christine Dwyer) along with Becky (played by Maiesha McQueen). Can you tell us a little more about your interactions?
The two other waitresses see Jenna through some of the most exciting and terrifying moments of her life and that journey is a very special one to share night after night. Maiesha, Christine and I have gotten to know each other onstage and off so much better because we are all very open to each other and to the continuing process involved with a long running show. I couldn’t ask for better friends (fictional and otherwise) to share these stories with.
What do you think audience members will take away from the overall message of the musical?
Sometimes we have to jump headlong into our vulnerabilities to find our strengths. We may make mistakes along the way, but with the help of our friends, and sometimes complete strangers, little by little we can pick up all the pieces and open that door we never thought would open for us. We do have the power to change our situation. We can’t always do it alone, but at the end of the day, the more we know ourselves and all the good the bad and the ugly that comes in that unique package, the more we can love and be kind to ourselves.
What is your favorite scene of Waitress and why?
I get to help bake the “meet your dream chocolate cream pie” that I take on my first date with Ogie. The camaraderie we get to see amongst the three women in “soft place” as they bake that pie is one of the most beautiful moments in the show. We’re all at different points in our lives, but we come together and look off into our dreamscapes if only for a moment. It reminds me that we have such a capacity to give each other strength in this world even when we aren’t feeling very strong ourselves.
Lastly, overall, why should our Texas Lifestyle readers come and watch you in Waitress at Bass Concert Hall?
This show is full of REAL people. I find this to be all the more true as we tour from city to city, meeting the locals and hearing their stories. There are joys and struggles that these characters experience that I think everyone can identify with at some point or another in their lives. It’s cathartic seeing pieces of ourselves up on a stage and sharing that experience with people, whether you’re onstage or off.
Cover photo Jessie Shelton, Christine Dwyer and Maiesha McQueen in the National Tour of Waitress. Photo Philicia Endelman