Full of flavor

Broadway hit Waitress serves up something sweet during week-long Austin run

Broadway hit Waitress serves up something sweet during Austin run

Waitress Broadway in Austin
Waitress heads to Bass Concert Hall on January 22-27.  Photo by Philicia Endelman

Ingredients are the basis of successful baking. Add a little too much of this or too little of that and a potentially decadent desert can fall flat. Combine the correct ingredients in just the right measure and the result can be beautiful. That’s really the premise behind the Broadway smash Waitress, coming to Bass Concert Hall January 22-27. 

Jenna’s life is less than what she’d like. She’s stuck in a loveless, abusive marriage and dreams of leaving her small town behind. Jenna's main escape from her unhappiness is sugar, butter, flour, and whatever other ingredients she dreams up to make the special pie of the day at Joe’s Pie Diner.

“I see the pie making as a metaphor for one’s life. Everyone's life is made up of many different experiences which are the ingredients, but ultimately what those ingredients can create with courage, honesty, authenticity, and love is a ‘beautiful pie,’” explains Maiesha McQueen who plays Becky, a friend and coworker who helps Jenna leave her husband and realize her own strength.

After finding out she’s unexpectedly pregnant, Jenna starts an affair with her married gynecologist. It’s a relationship that helps provide Jenna with both validation and courage. Seeing it as her way out, she plans to enter a national pie contest and use the prize money to start fresh with her soon-to-be-born child.

Wanting to escape small-town life is hardly an uncommon story in Broadway musicals, but what makes this production unique is one-part humor, one-part heart, and two-parts music. Grammy-nominated singer songwriter Sara Bareilles is one of the most recent pop singers to try her hand at writing music and lyrics for theater.

Bareilles did it as well as any, lovingly combining her catchy melodies and thought-provoking lyrics into Waitress’ score — efforts that led to a 2016 Tony Award nomination for Best Original Score. “She somehow has found a way to fit her soulful songwriting within the context of a musical and I don’t think there’s ever been anything within the musical theatre genre that is quite like the score she has composed," says McQueen.

Unlike some musicals whose song lyrics are largely focused on advancing the plot, Bareilles’ are subtler and more so about giving characters a chance to reflect and contemplate. “She Used to Be Mine” creates arguably the show’s most poignant moment as Jenna reflects on who she was and who she’s become. “She is messy, but she’s kind/She is lonely most of the time/She is all of this mixed up/And baked in a beautiful pie/She is gone, but she used to be mine," Jenna laments.  

“The music that Sara wrote for Waitress is absolutely stunning. It’s an absolute honor to be able to sing her unique and soulful lyrics and melodies every night,” says McQueen.  

With its sweet and sometimes sour ingredients, Waitress will make you laugh and possibly make you cry. It’s an unexpected delight about friendship, love, and courage that will leave you wanting more.

“I love hearing audience members talk about how they didn’t expect for the show to be both funny and emotionally fulfilling,” McQueen explains. “For many, the show takes them on an unexpected journey.”

You can get a front-row seat to Jenna’s journey during Waitress' one-week appearance at Bass Concert Hall.