Interview: Sara Bareilles Chats WAITRESS at London's Adelphi Theatre

By: Dec. 19, 2019
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Sara Bareilles as Jenna in Waitress

Sara Bareilles is an international bestselling music artist. She recently received her eighth nomination for a Grammy Award.

A few years ago, she took a departure from writing hit songs to compose the hit score for Waitress, which transferred from Broadway to the West End this year.

Bareilles is coming to London in 2020 to reprise her performance in the leading role of Jenna, a waitress who attempts to escape from her problems through her baking.

Her performance as Jenna on Broadway won her the BroadwayWorld Award for "Favourite Female Replacement" in 2017. She recently spoke to BroadwayWorld UK about returning to the diner on the other side of the Atlantic.

Congratulations on making your West End debut! How are you feeling about returning to the role of Jenna in London?

I feel amazed, grateful and scared all at the same time! It's been almost a year since I've been in the show and I think I have my work cut out for me in terms of returning to the role. That said, I always feel so lucky and grateful when there's an opportunity to engage with Waitress and tell the story. Plus, I already know that I absolutely adore London.

It'll be different this time because it will be just after we close on Broadway, so I'm sure it'll be a rather bittersweet moment. I'm not sure what all the feelings are going to be just yet, but I think it will be complicated.

Has your portrayal of Jenna changed over your various stints in the show?

Yeah, I think that there's always something new. What I love about my experience in the theatre so far is how much it's about immediacy and being able to offer what's available to you in that exact moment.

I think Jenna, for me, has evolved just as much as I have over the years. Six years have passed since we started this whole project, so my relationship to her and my intimate knowledge of her and her story have changed within that time.

There are always new things I notice in her, in her speech and her songs. After all these years of baking with the show, it has definitely shifted my understanding of her as a character.

Are you looking forward to working with Gavin Creel again and joining the West End cast?

Always. Always. Gavin is one of my nearest and dearest friends. I can't wait to be on stage with him again. He's the most fun scene partner and just extraordinary. Our London cast is just amazing. I'm so far away from them, so I do a lot of stalking them online.

I'm just so thrilled that we've been able to pull together this incredibly collaborative, inventive, curious, funny, hilarious, and talented cast to tell this story. I was in and out for the opening and there have been a lot of changes since then too, so I can't wait to spend more time with them.

Gavin Creel and Sara Bareilles

You've shared so much of the process of writing Waitress. Why did you decide to release What's Not Inside: The Lost Songs from Waitress?

Since we're sadly saying goodbye to our flagship diner here in New York, it felt like there was so much material that never made it on stage. I think that what ended up in the show were the right songs to end up in the show, but it felt like a waste to have created things that didn't get a life.

Plus, we have the most incredible fans. The Waitress fans are unbelievable. This EP feels like a little love letter to them, to try and give them a little something extra from the show.

For example, how did "Door Number Three" become "What Baking Can Do"?

We realised, after our run out in Cambridge at The American Repertory Theatre, that we didn't spend enough time talking about why Jenna disappears into her pie baking.

As a creative team, we understood that it was her superpower, but we didn't really explore the relationship with her mother. We didn't look at why that bond formed around baking, and what baking actually means to Jenna on a larger scale.

"Door Number Three" felt more about the choices we make in our lives and more about her relationship with Earl. We realised Jenna's story was even bigger than the story of Earl and her. It was more about her relationship with her family of origin and, specifically, with her mother - the pattern of behaviour she was repeating.

It's not just about the relationship with her husband. I'm glad we were able to make that part of the story much clearer with the way "What Baking Can Do" is staged.

How did you find going back to writing an album after Waitress?

Everything in my life has been made better by Waitress. Absolutely everything. I came back to touring so renewed and so excited to be on the road playing music.

Through my relationships formed during Waitress, I got introduced to T Bone Burnett, the producer of my most recent record Amidst the Chaos. He is someone I have looked up to my entire life. He's a musical icon, and I love that I got to work with him.

I was also introduced to JJ Abrams through Waitress and that's how I ended up working and creating for Little Voice, this television show that we're making right now. I'm learning that TV is exceptionally hard, so going back to the stage to sing my material as just a joy.

I had the most fun I think I may have ever had on tour aside from the very, very early days I spent in my twenties with my friends in a van.

What are you most looking forward to about living in London?

I'm excited to settle for a little bit. So much of my travel and being in other places is always so fast and furious. I'm usually in and out in two days, or I get to spend a week in a place at most. I'm looking forward to just getting to have an extended stay somewhere.

The novelty of seeing what life in London will be like is such a gift. I know it's going to be cold though, so I'm not looking forward to that!

I'm always excited to go back into this show to tell the story, so there are so many reasons to be excited.

Sara Bareilles and Gavin Creel join Waitress from 27 January, 2020

Photo credit: Shervin Lainez