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Pie Hopes

"Waitress" serves up laughs and heartbreak as Jenna, a pie-maker extraordinaire, longs for a life away from her diner job, small town and loveless marriage.

Gina Conroy
March 28, 2019

Real life. Real struggles. Real triumphs. That’s what Waitress brings to the table. Yet while the themes may be darker than Broadway-goers are used to, there’s no despairing about this hit Broadway musical making its Tulsa debut. In fact, the show dishes up a slice of real life topped with healing and hope.

“It’s not your boy meets girl love story,” says Christine Dwyer who plays the lead — Jenna, a small-town waitress who discovers she’s pregnant and doesn’t want to raise a family in an abusive marriage.

“It’s a show about friendship and female empowerment, but everyone can connect to the story even if you haven’t been through the specific circumstances.”

Dwyer explains Waitress is a show about personal growth and the friendship between three women who are all going through real, but different, life struggles.

“Watching the story unfold and following these women who struggle with real-life issues people all around the world are struggling with, and seeing how Jenna finds her courage and gets herself out of those circumstances makes our show special and unique,” says Dwyer. “The show doesn’t say men are terrible. It’s not isolating in that way. Men are affected emotionally just as much as the women are.”

The storyline is not the only unique element of the show. Waitress, served alongside the empowering pop songs of seven-time Grammy nominee Sara Bareilles, has the first ever all-female creative team on Broadway.

“In a lot of ways, it’s crazy to me that this hasn’t happened before 2019,” says Dwyer. “Every woman who is part of our creative team is very supportive of our story and knows how groundbreaking it is. There’s nothing like it on Broadway, and that I get to be part of something like this is special.”

Dwyer, whose credits include Elphaba in Wicked and other strong female leading roles in Rent and Finding Neverland, relates to Jenna the most compared to other parts she has played. Though originally performed and sung by Bareilles on Broadway, Dwyer says it’s written in a way that each actress can bring their own voice and real-life experiences to the role and still satisfy fans of the pop star.

“I think every woman who plays this part feels it’s an easy story to connect to,” says Dwyer. “I’ve been through similar things I’ve had to overcome. Jenna has her baking that gets her out of her own head, and she can pour all of her feelings, emotions, and struggles into the pies she bakes. We all have something like that whether it’s cooking or running around for people or music or art; everyone has that one thing that takes them out of their real life and they can pour themselves into something else to get through stuff and overcome their struggles. I definitely have that through music and theater.”

Dwyer also relates to the character who has a close-knit group of friends who help her through tough times. In real-life Dwyer is close to the cast; in fact, she’s engaged to Matt DeAngelis who plays her abusive husband in Waitress.

“We thought it would be weird at first, but it’s turned out to be a rewarding experience for both of us,” says Dwyer. “Because we trust each other so much, I think it makes the relationship between Jenna and her husband feel real.”

Even though the work is emotional, taxing, and DeAngelis has to yell at her every night, Dwyer says it’s been fun working together.

“We travel together with our dog and see the country together,” says Dwyer, who has never worked with her fiancé before this show. “It’s been awesome, and we’ve become better actors playing opposite each other.”

Though some directors might hesitate casting real-life couples together in such an emotional role, there was never a question about Dwyer and DeAngelis. It was done successfully between Bareilles and her partner.

“We don’t bring our personal stuff to work,” says Dwyer. “We’re there to do a job. The fact that we’re together makes it even more special and our relationship onstage more real and comfortable.”

Although Bareilles is not taking center stage, fans will get what they want because it’s all her music. It’s just told in a unique way that allows for anyone who plays Jenna to bring their unique voice to the stage.

“No one will be disappointed they’re not hearing Sara’s voice,” says Dwyer. “Her voice comes through regardless and is looped throughout the whole show on pre-recordings. When Jenna is creating pies, you’ll hear the theme of sugar, butter, flour; it’s all Sara’s voice.”

Whether you’re a fan of Bareilles, an empowering heartfelt story, or musical theater you will not be disappointed. Waitress has it all on the menu.

“The story is truly warm and heartbreaking in all the ways you want,” says Dwyer. “You will laugh and cry and feel all the emotions you want to feel in all the ways you want.”

Tulsa Performing Arts Center
110 E. 2nd St. | Tulsa
April 16-18: 7:30 p.m.
April 19: 8 p.m.
April 20: 2 p.m., 8 p.m.
April 21: 1 p.m., 6:30 p.m.

April 2020 Cover