BWW Interview: Desi Oakley of WAITRESS at Bass Performance Hall

BWW Interview: Desi Oakley of WAITRESS at Bass Performance Hall

Name: Desi Oakley

Role: Jenna in WAITRESS National Tour

Hometown: A sweet little city called Wichita, Kansas.

You've added some great roles on your resume over the past few years, are there any that you're particularly proud of?

Jenna, for sure. And to say that I was painted green and got to play Elphaba is pretty darn cool!

What made you want to audition for the role of Jenna?

The story. It's so unbelievable. It's so relatable and down to earth. It's so special and tangible and real. These characters have life and breath to them and they feel every emotion. As an audience member you feel everything with them.

How does performing a more realistic story line in WAITRESS compare to playing Elphaba in WICKED?

It's a challenge. I feel so lucky to have been a part of a story like Wicked. There's also a lot of sparkle to hide behind. [Waitress] is such a raw show and with Jenna being the girl next door it's all so exposing. It's been a fun challenge for me.

What is it like working with Sara Bareilles?

I think she's a genius. She's human and she knows who she is as a person, she's unapologetically her, she's a lover of people and she's taught me so much! And to have her approval [of my Jenna] is remarkable and so encouraging.

Favorite pie flavor?

It changes by the week because I try so many but right now it's a cherry strawberry pie. It blew my mind. It was perfectly tart and sweet at the same time.

What made you fall in love with theatre and pursue your career?

There's an amazing regional theatre in Wichita called Music Theatre of Wichita and it's where I got my start. I was 8 years old and the producing director of that theatre saw something in me, took me under his wing and taught me everything I needed to know about theatre. I fell in love with [theatre] because of that incredible opportunity. I was 16 and deciding whether I wanted to pursue a song writing career or a musical theatre career. And I was waiting to hear back about my audition for my first lead role, Dorothy in the WIZARD of OZ at Music Theatre of Wichita. I decided that if I booked this show I would pursue theatre and sure enough I did! I took that as a sign to pursue the stage and my joy of performing.

Many of our readers are aspiring performers, what is some advice you would give them to pursue a performance career?

Absolutely! My main thing is to have a dream but to also know what it takes to make that dream come true. We can't just sit around and wish upon stars. There's a portion of this that you have control over and that's working hard, researching and learning and knowing what needs to happen on your end for your dream to come true. However, I do believe that it is both things: wishing and hoping and then it is all working, striving and doing. With little tidbits of being kind to everyone and learning who you are as a person and not as a performer. Everyone is a human being: casting directors, choreographers, audience members, Broadway stars, every single one of them is a human first.

You were a part of Gotham season 1, as Antonia - what was it like being a part of the super hero world?

That was an amazing experience. It was one epside and that was my first TV experience and I wouldn't change it for the world. I was like a sponge soaking up every little moment. I'll never forget that day - it was so exciting! I absolutely loved my TV experience and I hope to have more.

Tell me about your Jane Lynch moment during ANNIE.

Jane Lynch is hilarious. I went on last minute for a principal on Broadway and I played Lilly St. Regis. It was a mid-show throw on and I had never got on for the part before and they threw into my costume and onto the stage and I will never forget being in the wings and thinking "Here goes nothing!" I went onstage and Jane Lynch's face when she saw me and not the original woman playing Lilly was priceless. At the end of the show she said "Oakley, you're Broadway!"

Current project is your solo album. What's your inspiration when focusing on your songwriting?

I write about life experience. I'm a piano based singer-songwriter similar to Sara Bareilles' sound. When [Waitress] came along it's like my two worlds combined. I'll have more time to focus on the album once I'm done with Waitress but it gives me so much joy to go around town and play my music.

If the rest of your career was a choose-your-own adventure opportunity, what roles might you choose to follow after Jenna?

I wanna play Millie in THOROUGHLY MODERN MILLIE. It's been one of my dream roles and it has been since I've been really young. I've gotta play her at some point in my life!

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