“It was magical,” says Jenna Ushkowitz a few days after her first performance in Waitress on July 29 at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre. “I didn’t expect it to be so magical. They really made a big deal out of it. It was really special.”
Ushkowitz takes on the role of diner server Dawn in the Broadway musical Waitress; she steps in for original cast member Kimiko Glenn (Orange Is the New Black), who is taking a leave of absence from the production. (A reason for Glenn’s leave was not provided, and a return date has not been set.)
Below, Ushkowitz takes us through her week preparing to wait tables at Joe’s Pie Diner:
This is my first wig fitting.
[David Quinn] came in to make the costumes for me. He had to remake the entire dress… They remade everything for me because they didn’t have costumes for me. That’s probably my third Dawn fitting.
That was my first Dawn try-on in totality, with the wig and the glasses and the dress. There were still some alterations happening at that point, but that was the first look of Dawn.
These [two are also] new. It’s Geoffrey Kidwel, who is a vacation swing, and Molly Jobe, the new female swing. [Geoffrey is] actually gone for this week now because Chris [Fitzgerald] is back, but he’ll be back I’m sure. But these are the guys I rehearsed with for the last two weeks. We learned the show together, and we would watch [the show] every night together. This [photo] was onstage. This was my last night before I [officially] went in as Dawn. They just joined with me like days before. It was nice to have new faces there and not be the only new face, too. We rehearsed together basically for two weeks.
This is the photo call right before the put-in. That was my first photo with the ladies in costume. They’re absolutely amazing and talented and nice. They brought me gifts on my first day! We worked together on Thursday and then on Friday for the put-in and then Friday’s show. The rapport happened really quickly. It had to, but it was really easy to become fast friends with them. Keala [Settle] and I share a dressing room, so we’ve gotten to spend some time and laugh together. They’re just so welcoming and really, really great. They made everything feel so seamless on stage. They have each other’s backs in real life, and that’s what it feels like onstage as well. We all have each other’s back. They were like, “We got you. Don’t worry because we got you.”
We have some time onstage right before I go on for “Bad Idea (Reprise),” and Drew [Gehling] apparently photobombed my photo. This is [the] Betsy Ross [look]. This is when [Dawn and Ogie] dress up in their revolutionary garb at the beginning of Act II.
This is show number four with my green juice [from Fuel Juice Bar], and I don’t know if anybody has any interest in that—but I’m refueling to get ready for an eight-show week!
It was absolutely amazing. Curtain call was when I finally got to realize that I actually did it and gotten through it. It was magical, and they brought out flowers, which I was not expecting at all. The absolute joy… The emotion on my face is very genuine of the elation of joy of being back on the stage. It was emotional and sweet. I’m just thrilled to be a part of this company.