Based on the 2007 film of the same name, Waitress follows the story of Jenna, a waitress at Joe’s Pie Diner. She’s married to an abusive husband, gets pregnant, and wants a way out of her life. And she latches on to the idea of a pie-baking contest as a way to do it. Because pies are Jenna’s secret weapon. They’re her passion, and making them is what she loves.
“I love the fact that Jenna is raw, she’s not always nice. She’s very what-you-see-is-what-you-get,” explains Christine Dwyer, the actress who stars in the show, which rolls into Houston next week. “She’s honest and direct most of the time. But she’s flawed. She doesn’t always follow through.”
But, says Dwyer, even as she faces pretty bad circumstances, Jenna gets up every day, she goes to work, she tries her best, and she always picks herself back up.
The musical opened on Broadway in April 2016, starring Jessie Mueller coming off a star turn as Carole King in Beautiful, with music and lyrics by Sara Bareilles and a book by Jessie Nelson. Reviewers mostly praised the show’s heartfelt sincerity and homey tropes.
While Dwyer loves the musical’s brightness, she’s quick to point out there’s plenty of bitter amid all the sweet. For instance, her real-life husband, Matt DeAngelis, portrays her character's abusive husband, Earl.
“We thought it would be weird,” Dwyer says. “Because the scenes are sometimes so intense. These two don’t have a good relationship. And for Earl, that’s a part that can be seen as a pure villain, opposite a character the audience loves. So, I love that Matt gets to play this part with me, and find ways to flesh it out. And working with him is great, because I trust him so much, and I’m not nervous in our scenes at all. I know we’re giving each other what we need as actors.”
The touring production also casts local kids for the role of Lulu, Jenna’s daughter. In Houston, League City twins Avery and Quinn Preddy will be sharing the role. They’ll turn 6 during the musical’s run.
Their mom, Julianne, has seen the show in New Orleans, and knew that the company casts locals as Lulu.
“I just sort of kept that in the back of my mind,” she says. “I kept thinking that when the show came to Houston, it would be perfect for them.”
Preddy didn’t get to see their actual audition, but after they got the part, they were sent a rehearsal video to use at home, which included Lulu’s few lines and the dance she has to do with Jenna. They’ll rehearse with the full cast right before the show opens.
“I’m so proud of them,” says Preddy. “This is the first time we’ve ever done anything like this—I’ve learned so much about theater, personally. Little things, like, ok, we need to have them stay up later at night since when the show starts, they’re usually in bed. They are having fun with the part so far.”
For her bit, Dwyer is looking forward to being back in the Bayou City, having visited when she toured with Rent and Wicked.
“I can’t wait to see how the city has changed,” she says. “I’m very excited about that.”
Jan. 29–Feb. 3. Tickets from $35. Hobby Center for the Performing Arts, 800 Bagby St. 800-952-6560. More info and tickets at houston.broadway.com.