This weekend, it kicks off Broadway musicals with “Waitress” on Friday through Sunday.
“We had an all-female creative team putting this together, so we like to say girl power!” Actress Kennedy Salters told WTOP. “Three waitresses work in a diner, so you get to see their stories unfold, you get to hear some jokes and also listen to some really cool music.”
Based on the 2007 film by Adrienne Shelly and adapted by Jessie Nelson (book) and pop star Sara Bareilles (music, lyrics), the 2016 Broadway show earned four Tony nominations, including Best Musical, and might have won if it weren’t for a little show called “Hamilton.”
“I had never seen ‘Waitress,’ besides watching the Tonys where I saw Jessie Mueller take my entire soul away,” Salters said. “It was one of those things in the hubbub of everything that I had never seen. I had never listened to the soundtrack all the way through. … I got to see it for the first time with Sara [Bareilles] on Broadway … a couple months ago.”
She plays Becky, a friend and colleague of the main character, Jenna, a small-town waitress stuck in a loveless marriage until a pie-baking contest offers a fresh start.
“You have your head waitress, Jenna, who you get to see going through her trials, struggles and arc from start to finish, a story of liberation,” Salters said. “You get to see Becky giving some of the tougher love, but still giving the love. Then you have the other waitress, Dawn, who comes in with more of the quirks, but love coming from all around.”
The songbook slaps right out of the gate with “Opening Up” on multiple levels: (a) opening up the show, (b) opening up the restaurant, and (c) opening up Jenna’s emotional arc.
“You get to see the waitresses for the first time like, ‘OK, let’s open this bad boy up, let’s open this diner up,'” Salters said. “All three of us start singing in unison at first, then we break into our first harmony. Then you get to see all of the ensemble cast come flooding in. You get to see the life of the diner, people coming in and enjoying Jenna’s pies.”
From there, the show offers intermittent daydreams where time stops.
“Based on the different things Jenna is feeling in the moment, she creates a pie,” Salters said. “Jenna finds out some news … the lights change and it’s a soft-freeze moment for other people in the scene. … We get to see, hear and really feel her deeper feelings. … It’s almost like the audience being welcomed into Jenna’s internal monologue, really.”
Not only is the show introspective, it’s also wonderfully silly. The role of Ogie provides comic relief as Dawn’s eccentric love interest singing “Never Ever Getting Rid of Me.”
“He’s so authentically himself,” Salter said. “He’s telling us that he only eats white food on Wednesdays. Like where did he come from? It’s so much fun to watch them do their work. It is hilarious. … We all need a good belly laugh and that’s what you’re going to get when ‘Never Ever Getting Rid of Me’ comes on, just professing his love for Dawn.”
On the flip side, you’ll cry during the tear-jerking ballad “She Used to Be Mine,” filled with nostalgic lyrics: “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.”
“It’s so beautiful and so introspective,” Salter said. “It’s a song that talks about, ‘I used to be this person, this person used to be mine, and along the way I’ve lost that.’ … It is 100% the tearjerker. … You will 100% be stunned in your seats and be in the moment right there with her. It’s such a beautiful shared breath between the actress and the audience.”
Amid the goosebumps, you’ll realize Broadway is here to stay at Capital One Hall.
“A lot of Fairfax County residents either go to the Kennedy Center or other venues in town — or go to New York to see Broadway,” Executive Director Dolly Vogt told WTOP. “We’re going to do ‘An Officer and a Gentleman,’ ‘Fiddler on the Roof.’ … It’s a good alternative. You might not want to go all the way to New York to see a show.”
Listen to our full conversation here.