Waitress, which will receive its world-premiere production at the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, MA, will be directed by Tony winner Diane Paulus (Hair, Pippin). Tony Award winner Jessie Mueller (Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, On a Clear Day You Can See Forever) will star in the production.
Mueller, who also participated in a New York workshop of the musical, will play the central role of Jenna, who is described as "an inventive waitress trapped in a small-town diner and a loveless marriage. Pregnant and lonely, Jenna finds relief in making creatively-titled pies — and in a budding romance with an unlikely newcomer."
Bareilles described writing Waitress as a "deeply collaborative" process, saying, "There’s a lot of cooks in the kitchen, and it’s really important to not be precious about the ideas that are coming out. That’s been a really fun way for me to exercise what it’s like to just write music and not have a deep attachment to where it ends up.
"The whole point is to service the story," she continued. "I have loved the fact that it’s a tableful of this wonderful creative people. I’m really used to working all by myself. While I do go to my corner and do most of the writing by myself, in terms of integrating it into the show, is trying to please a lot of people all at the same time. It’s been awesome and super-challenging."
Bareilles said she had never seen the film "Waitress" before being approached about the project. After meeting with Paulus ("I fell in love with her," she said), she watched the movie and "fell in love with its charm and quirky kind of heart and soul." "I made really bad choices many times," she said, describing the writing process. "I wrote a song about a sex scene that will never see the light of day. It’s been a little bit of trial and error.
"You can expect a really soulful show," she said. "We’ve kept the show small and intimate. It’s more of a chamber piece. It has a little bit of surreal twist on something. We want things to feel dreamy and warm and like the center of the show. We want it to feel a home-based audience. I don’t know what I’m doing, but I do know that I have worked really hard to make this show feel like it has a lot of heart."
The production will begin performances at the Loeb Drama Center Aug. 1.