Grammy and Tony Nominated Singer-Songwriter to Replace Jessie Mueller
Waitress is a new musical that has been playing the Brooks Atkinson Theatre since March 25, 2016, and officially opened on April 24, 2016. With a book by Jessie Nelson and music and lyrics by Sara Bareilles, the show is directed by American Repertory Theater artistic director Diane Paulus (Porgy & Bess, Hair, Pippin). Waitress exceed expectations in a competitive season that was largely monopolized by Hamilton, and nevertheless recouped its capitalization in less than 10 months, making it only the second musical of that season (along with Hamilton) to recoup. The musical is based off the 2007 film of the same name by Adrienne Shelly, and the story follows a waitress and pie baker who dreams of leaving her unhappy marriage. The original cast starred Jessie Mueller, the Tony Award-winning actress of Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, who was also nominated for a Tony for her lead role in Waitress. Mueller is still in the cast, and will remain so until March 26, 2017. However, after a year of performances, she is contractually released and emotionally ready to move on. Who better to replace her than the show’s composer, the Grammy nominated singer-songwriter Sara Bareilles?
Sara Bareilles has been nominated for five Grammy Awards, including those for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance for her songs “Love Song” and “King of Anything,” as well as Song of the Year for “Love Song,” Album of the Year for “The Blessed Unrest,” Best Pop Solo Performance for “Brave,” and Best Musical Theater Album for Waitress. She also garnered acclaim for singing a demo album of songs from Waitress, entitled What’s Inside: Songs from Waitress, which was released six months before the show. And while that concept album was highly praised, Bareilles reportedly never considered originated the lead role of Waitress, Jenna. Instead, she was thrilled and supportive of acclaimed actress Jessie Mueller stepping into the role. It has now been announced the Bareilles will in fact be embodying Jenna for Broadway audiences, with a limited engagement from March 31, 2017 to June 11, 2017. This will represents Bareilles’ Broadway performing debut. At the same time, the male lead role of Dr. Pomatter, her gynecological love interest, will be replaced by Chris Diamantopoulos (The Full Monty, Les Misérables), who is taking over from current lead actor Drew Gehling. Prior to taking on this role, Bareilles will sing at the Academy Awards ceremony on Sunday, February 26, 2017, during the In Memoriam segment, where photos of those who have passed this year are displayed in an emotionally compelling number.
Bareilles and Mueller Have Become Close Friends
This passing on of the baton could not be more celebratory. While some Broadway role changeovers can be rife with bad feelings, this is an instance where the switch is certainly done in good spirits. Bareilles and Mueller are each other’s greatest fans, complimenting one another at every chance they can get, and they have become good friends. In addition to getting to know each other very well through rehearsing, they go apple picking together, and generally enjoy each other’s company. Interestingly, Mueller once won a role over Bareilles that she had auditioned for. While Bareilles has certainly found success in the realm of the music industry, she has always had a soft spot for theatre. In 2012, Bareilles was called in to audition for the role of Cinderella in the Public Theater’s Shakespeare in the Park outdoor staging of Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine’s Into the Woods. Bareilles was very nervous, she later said, and did not believe she auditioned very well. In any case, the role went to Jessie Mueller, who had just completed a Tony-nominated run in On a Clear Day You Can See Forever. While Bareilles and Mueller did not cross paths at the time, they have certainly come full circle since then, as they are sharing the spotlight in turn for the same role in the highly acclaimed production of Waitress.