In her Broadway debut, Sara Bareilles musicalizes the 2007 film Waitress, about waitress and pie maker named Jenna, who’s stuck in a loveless marriage and a works at a small-town diner. Jessie Mueller, Keala Settle and Kimiko Glenn play the trio of waitresses and the center of the show, but have they (and the rest of the company) had any experience waiting tables prior to their Broadway breaks?
Sara Bareilles (Music and Lyrics)
I worked at a couple different places in L.A., in and out of college, [including] the Lazy Daisy Café, which I eventually quit because [of] holding the plates. I was having wrist problems, and I remember my friend Matt Schutte was like… My wrists were really hurting from carrying heavy breakfast plates, and he was like, “Hey, dumb dumb! You’re a piano player. Quit your job.” And, I did! Then I had to go back because I eventually was broke again. [Laughs.] But it’s nice to think about, “No, we have to value [ourselves]. This is what I do. I can’t put that in jeopardy.” Then I worked at a little beer bar, and I actually had a great time waitressing. I loved the people I worked with. I loved that it was social. I made good money.
Jessie Mueller (Jenna)
I was never a waitress. I was a caterer—a faceless waitress. I was like a human tray. Catering is like being a human tray. I enjoyed aspects of it, though, because I think I actually enjoyed the sort of, “I don’t really have to deal with people. I’m a fly on the wall.” And, I got to go to a lot of fancy people’s houses that were gorgeous, and the precision of setting things up—I dug that!
Keala Settle (Becky)
No, I’m so embarrassed to say that. But we had a day-and-a-half, I think, of an actual diner rehearsal, where we had a PA [production assistant] come in and give us the rundown—try to take tickets, what the abbreviations were, how to hold plates when you took them out, how to put coffee in the coffee machine and how to do it at the speed of light because nobody waits for you, how to run a cash register… It was hysterical. Then they unleashed [fake patrons] on us onstage and gave them characters to be without telling us, and we had to run a diner without knowing who the f*ck these people were. It was crazy! I would get so fired. There were moments where Jessie would come over and go, “Y’all have a problem over at…” I said, “It’s not my fault!” She said, “But we don’t have a manager.” I said, “I don’t care. I’m not the manager!” It was really, really cool, so we kind of built on that.
Kimiko Glenn (Dawn)
I haven’t. I’ve been pretty lucky with doing the whole acting thing. For a month, I took a coat-check job just because I was like, “I’ll make a little extra money. I’m sure nothing is going to happen [with gigs] in this month,” and then everything happened in that month! [Laughs.]
Drew Gehling (Dr. Pomatter)
I did. I worked at Ruby Foo’s Times Square for like eight months when I first moved to New York, and now it’s gone. I was terrible at it! I think I full-blown yelled at my boss on New Year’s Eve because it was my first week. I was stressed out. I didn’t know what was happening—my tables needed water and more drinks, and I was unable to deal with it.
Nick Cordero (Earl)
I started out in the kitchen, actually. I used to cook on the line, and then I lied my face off to get out of there and start serving tables. But, yeah—absolutely. I worked in tons of restaurants. I catered when I first got here [to New York] for a couple years. Where did I work? I’m from Toronto, so a bunch of restaurants up there. I used to work at this place in the Village called Jarnac, which is this French restaurant that’s not there anymore. I think it’s called Recette now. Where else? This place called Dublin 6, which is down in the Village, now Hudson Hound. I feel like so many actors… Every waiting job is your “last,” so if you have an opportunity to leave, you’re like, “Get rid of that apron! I’ll never use it again,” and then you go back to it. I don’t know, man, maybe I still have waitering days ahead of me! Who knows? It’s a good thing to learn how to do because you meet a lot of actors—especially in New York—you meet a lot of people who are doing the same thing you are. It’s a great way to establish a community, and you learn to multi-task, which, quite frankly, if you’re an actor in New York, is a good skill to have.
Christopher Fitzgerald (Ogie)
I catered a lot when I first moved to the city. My main memory is being yelled at a lot! [Laughs.] It was hard. It’s really hard work. I was terrible, except when I had catered the MTV Christmas party one year, and I was in charge of the snow cone machine. That was a ball! I had a great time. I mean, I got to put vodka in the snow cones!
Dakin Matthews (Joe)
No! I was a university professor for 25 years [before becoming an actor—teaching] English.
Eric Anderson (Cal)
No. I’m actually terrible at it. I worked in takeout once when I lived in Los Angeles, and that only lasted a couple of weeks. It’s an art, and it requires a lot of brain in a lot of different places. I tend to have too much tunnel vision for that sort of thing.
Diane Paulus (director)
I did! I was a dessert girl in high school at a café on the East Side [Café La Fortuna], and my best memory of that is that my now-husband [producer] Randy Weiner, who you may know, came in and slipped me a little piece of paper that said, “I love you.” I dropped the entire tin of cookies on the floor, and like every good waitress, I just shoved them back in the tin and served them. So, that’s my waitressing anecdote.
Jessie Nelson (book)
I was a waitress for ten years. I wrote my first screenplay on my dupe pad when I was a waitress, so I felt like I had done the research. I waitressed a lot in L.A. I waitressed here at the Bottom Line. I’ve waitressed in diners all over. It was how I supported myself from like 16 on, and it was also some of the greatest times of my life because of the camaraderie you feel and the friendship you feel with people you normally wouldn’t get to know. It’s eight hours a night, and you’re with these women on the floor dealing with the people who could be “eh,” so that’s also what attracted me [to the musical]—that it was a celebration of that kind of friendship [and] the camaraderie you have with the women you work with.
Lorin Latarro (choreographer)
I got fired! I was a waitress once at a restaurant on the Upper West Side, and I worked two nights, and they fired me. I don’t know—I wasn’t good at it. It’s hard!