BWW Interview: Alison Luff is Opening Up About Her Sweet, New Gig as the Leading Lady of WAITRESS!
Meet the New Leading Lady of Waitress
Just two weeks ago, a new leading lady took over at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre. Following in the footsteps of Shoshana Bean, who took her final bow as Waitress' pie-making mom-to-be on July 21, is Alison Luff.
Perhaps best known for creating the role of Rachel in last season's Escape to Margaritaville, Luff has traded in salt and limes for sugar, butter and flour. Her additional theatre credits include the Broadway productions of Les Misérables, Matilda, Ghost, Scandalous, and Mamma Mia as well as the 1st National Tour of Wicked. On television, Alison has appeared in FBI on CBS. She is also one half of the singer/songwriter duo The Bones.
Below, Luff checks in with BroadwayWorld about her first days in the show, what she loves most about playing Jenna, and so much more!
How has it been going at the Brooks Atkinson so far?It's been amazing. This cast is just so dreamy, so lovely and welcoming. For a cast that sees this many turnovers, everyone is just still so happy to be there, willing to help and work. I feel super lucky because I went into the show at the same time as Mark Evans, who is just the dreamiest person to play opposite of, and we have just have so much fun finding it together. It's been pretty freaking awesome.
It's got to be so comforting going in with another person and not feeling like you're all alone out there doing it for the first time.Yeah, it's just nice because I feel like there's more freedom to develop something whenever somebody hasn't been doing it already for a while. We're able to find it together and develop the relationship together versus coming in with somebody who already has a whole idea of it, so that was an unexpected gem.
There's so many intricacies in the movement involved with this character. Was that hard to pick up?
That definitely was one of the more challenging things, but Lorin Latarro's choreography, just movement in general, is so beautiful and specific and does come from a place of storytelling, so it makes it a lot easier than just it being a dance. But it's still choreography and attaching it to things while you're learning the lines and the words can be challenging. I think we counted that Jenna touches over 235 props in act one and over 200 something in act two, so the main challenging thing is just rehearsing in a rehearsal studio... you're not rehearsing with the actual props, so the flour bowl might be yellow in the rehearsal room and then you go to look for it on stage and it's white. Or maybe it's a on a different shelf because you don't have a multiple shelves in a rehearsal space. The dance captain and stage management team were just so lovely and do everything in their power to get you there and get you ready. It was challenging, but it was welcomed.
And you're going to be one of the last ladies to go through this process, because Waitress is closing January. How does it feel to be one of the last Jennas?It's extra special. I've wanted to play this role for a really long time, it's been on my bucket list and one of my dream roles since I saw the show in 2016. Getting to be one of the last people to do that, it's extra sweet. It really is.
What were your thoughts when you saw this show for the first time?I looked to my husband within the first five minutes and I had tears in my eyes. I whispered "I have to do this." That was in 2016. I've always been a Sara Bareilles fan, I've always been a Jessie Mueller fan and I've worked with Lorin Latarro before and always loved her work, but I went into it completely not knowing anything. I did know the music, and it was within the first minutes, as soon as the curtain rises, I just had goosebumps and it affected me unlike any show has affected me since in middle school or high school.
This is one of those musicals that really resonates with people because there are so many characters that people can identify with in some way. Do you feel that energy in the audience?
100%. You feel it coming from the audience and then you are reaffirmed at the stage door. I've had so many people, actually male and female, share their very personal stories with me and I've only been in the show a week! I've had people you wouldn't expect to have this story resonate with them because they are a male or they are not somebody that would fit the mold finding themselves in the situation that Jenna has and I think that's one of the coolest things. I had a woman the other day tell me with tears in her eyes: "I'm a single mother and I'm raising three girls and this show just means the world to me," and I'm a very emotionally available human as well, as most actors are, so I'm so grateful that people are willing to open up and tell me why this show matters to them because that takes a lot of guts.
How would you describe your Jenna? What parts of her do you really latch onto?I latch on to her resilience. I latch on to her, not one of her best qualities, but something that I think that a lot of us have... how tired she is. I think she is really tired. I don't think she's a cockeyed optimist and I really lean into that side of her because I think it makes her hero's tale a little more sweeter. She knows she's in a precarious situation and a precarious marriage, but she's finding the right time to go about, so when Earl is talking to her in a certain way, she's not just taking it, but at the same time she know this isn't right... but when is she going to be ready to do something about that?
Do you have a favorite moment in the show?I don't think I've quite found my favorite moment yet. I really like the moment that she sees her baby for the first time. That's something that I think really resonates with women. I know a lot of women can relate to the fear of pregnancy before they're ready, something that only women, well men too... but only women deal with it in the facet we deal with it. That moment I just find it's such a release for me as an actor and a person. It's probably right now my favorite.
What are you most forward to looking forward to in your run ahead?I've really loved getting to know the fans and getting to know why this story resonates with them as much as it does with me. This script is so delicious, pun intended, and deep that I'm really looking forward to just diving and finding those new places and talking to you two months from now and saying, "My favorite moment is this!" when I didn't even know that moment existed yet.
Waitress tells the story of Jenna, a waitress and expert pie-maker who dreams of a way out of her small town and rocky marriage. Pouring her heart into her pies, she crafts desserts that mirror her topsy-turvy life such as "The Key (Lime) to Happiness Pie" and "Betrayed By My Eggs Pie." When a baking contest in a nearby county - and a satisfying run-in with someone new - show Jenna a chance at a fresh start, she must find the courage to seize it. Change is on the menu, as long as Jenna can write her own perfectly personal recipe for happiness.
Waitress opened April 24, 2016 at Broadway's Brooks Atkinson Theatre (256 West 47th Street). Based upon 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 a book by Jessie Nelson, a score by six-time Grammy Award-nominated singer-songwriter Sara Bareilles, choreography by Lorin Latarro and direction by Tony Award-winner Diane Paulus.