Broadway By Design: Scott Pask & Suttirat Anne Larlarb Bring WAITRESS from Page to Stage
Who is Annie without her red dress? Or Eva with out her balcony? It is the charge of the Broadway designer to transport the audience into the world of a show, whether it be Great Depression-era New York City or outside of the Casa Rosada.
In our new series, Broadway by Design, BroadwayWorld will be shining a spotlight on the stellar designs of this Broadway season, show by show. Today, we continue the series with Scott Pask and Suttirat Anne Larlarb, who acted as scenic and costume designers for Broadway's fresh, new musical, WAITRESS.
WAITRESS tells the story of Jenna, a Waitress and expert pie maker in a small town, who dreams of a way out of her loveless marriage. A baking contest in a nearby county and the town's new doctor may offer her a chance at a new life while her fellow waitresses offer their own recipes to happiness. But Jenna must find the courage and strength within herself to rebuild her life. This new American musical celebrates friendship, motherhood, and the magic of a well-made pie.
Scenic designer Scott Pask told us: "We were working within the domestic life of our lead character, Jenna. That largely takes place within Joe's Pie Diner, which is not only her place of work but her place of creation and inspiration. It's a personal refuge. And of course,a there are the also the real demands of the musical structure, which are multiple locations... moments within the diner, her home, and various locations that reflect the story. So for me, it was important to not only portray the diner as a character but also to make sure the story of her life is given a vivid portrayal on stage."
"A lot of it comes from the vision of Diane [Paulus], Lorin [Latarro], and the script, but it also reflects the tone of Sara [Bareilles]'s score. We are watching the ingredients of Jenna's life and the set is one of those. It's all in the mixing bowl of her life. It's actually not a literal idea- it's taking these real places in her life and trying to give it a literal spin."
"When we go to Earl and Jenna's home, we wipe out the light and take away the horizon line. We basically put her in a corner. It's not just portraying her home, but conceptually it's ridding her of a place where she is able to expand."
Pask continues: "There are moments of what I call 'magic realism,' where the ensemble reflects an emotional moment. When she is upset with her husband, they spin around her and her dream sitting there in that moment is of packing a suitcase and leaving. That materializes in front of us, and then she snaps back to reality. So we exist in this world of hers- of her mind and her literal existence. I hope the set is a character moving with her emotional ups and downs throughout the show."
Costume designer Suttirat Anne Larlarb also found inspiration in Jenna's reality. She explained: "The clothes needed to have a real, breathable honesty - setting a world that Jenna is stuck in, the here, the now - and therefore she could 'escape' from in her pie-making reverie, and of course when she is liberated in the end from the old life that's held her down. All of this real life weighs her down, so to set that tone was really important for us - because it meant there was something livelier, happier, more idealistic to dream about - and then she eventually gets there and it's a rebirth - colors are brighter, life is lighter, and it shows.
"There's a book I loved called 'Plates and Dishes' by a photographer who documents road-side diner waitresses across America. That was a great window into the world of the diner - for all the characters - the diner waitresses, the customers, the spirit..starting with the real. I found it inspiring to have a real grounding for the characters so that we could heighten when the special moments, the music, the story and Jenna's life circumstances called for it..."
What was her biggest challenge? Larlarb told us: "Probably keeping Jenna on stage the entire time while trying to show different states, and transformation - between reality and dreamstates; between her home and work life; between her private thoughts and the demands of her reality - and of course throughout the stages of her pregnancy. I think we got there by having the world around her change when required, and then she only changes when she really needed to burst free from the day-in, day-out..."
"It's a lot for any performer to take on, but Jessie Mueller was right there the whole time, so collaborative and diligent and working so hard to make the costume design ideas as important as all the technical and performance demands on her. She's amazing."
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Broadway's WAITRESS began performances on Friday, March 25 with a bang, setting a house record for a single performance the Brooks Atkinson Theatre and announcing a new block of tickets on sale through January 1, 2017. WAITRESS opens tonight, April 24, 2016.
Based on the 2007 motion picture written by Adrienne Shelly, Waitress is the first Broadway musical in history to have four women in the four top creative team spots, with book by Jessie Nelson, score by five-time Grammy Award-nominated singer-songwriter Sara Bareilles, choreography by Lorin Latarro and direction by Tony Award-winner Diane Paulus.