Songstress Takes Over for Jessie Mueller for 10-Week Run
On March 31, 2017, Sara Bareilles stepped into the lead role of Jenna in the musical Waitress, for which she is also the composer and lyricist, alongside a book by Jessie Nelson. For a year since Waitress began previews on March 25, 2016, all the way until March 26, 2017, this lead part was played by Jessie Mueller, the Tony Award winning actress whose other credits include Beautiful: The Carole King Musical and The Mystery of Edwin Drood. Bareilles has been nominated for multiple Grammy Awards for her music endeavors, including the awards for Song of the Year and Best Female Pop Vocal Performance for “Love Song,” Album of the Year for “The Blessed Unrest,” and Best Pop Solo Performance for “Brave.” As for Waitress, Bareilles is already a Tony Award nominee for Best Original Score, as well as a Grammy Award nominee for Best Musical Theatre Album. Waitress is notable for its all-female creative team, extending beyond the show’s writer and composer to include its director, Diane Paulus, and the choreographer, Lorin Latarro. The show is produced by Barry and Fran Weissler, Norton and Elayne Herrick, David I. Berley, and more.
Ever since Sara Bareilles stepped into Waitress, the box office has been at a high. On her second performance in the role, which was April 1, 2017, the Brooks Atkinson Theatre broke its house record for one night’s grosses, with ticket sales for that one night amounting to $180,026. In the week ending April 2, 2017, in which Bareilles played four of the eight performances, the weekly gross was $1,025,366, which represents 100.58% of the show’s gross potential. With a top ticket price of $270.00, the average paid admission was $130.47, and the audience was filled up to an average of 94.0%. This is the eighth highest weekly gross since the show began performances, with the highest grossing week taking place in the week ending January 1, 2017. Still, Jessie Mueller had the advantage of playing during the holiday season. From the brief glimpse of box office performance that has been reported since Sara Bareilles stepped into the role, it is clear that Bareilles has a built-in fan base. While these fans may have already flocked to the theatre to see this well-reviewed show for which Bareilles had written the music, it is an altogether different story to see her in person singing the lead part. Therefore, Waitress has become a significantly hotter ticket a year into its run, which is a feat that is all too rare for a show to achieve on Broadway.
Bareilles and Mueller are Best Buds
While it took a year for Sara Bareilles to build the confidence and convince the show’s producers to allow her to step into the lead part, the relationship between Bareilles and the original star of Waitress, Jessie Mueller, is nothing but friendly. Interestingly, however, this isn’t the first time Bareilles has considered performing on the major stage. She has long harbored the dream to be an actress, even while building a very successful singing and songwriting career. In 2012, in fact, she auditioned for the part of Cinderella in the Shakespeare in the Park production of Into the Woods, and the role ended up to going to none other than Jessie Mueller. That was before the two women knew each other, and it was also before Mueller had gone on to replace Kelli O’Hara in the lead role of Nice Work If You Can Get It, which was Mueller’s second Broadway outing, after On a Clear Day You Can See Forever. Since proving her chops as Cinderella, Mueller was then invited to originate the role of Carole King in Beautiful, a role that would go on to earn her a Tony Award. This is therefore a full circle moment for Mueller and Bareilles, as Mueller is now handing off the baton to Bareilles, who gave her the Waitress baton in the first place.