BWW Interview: Bryan Fenkart Talks WAITRESS On Tour
WAITRESS a multi-Tony nominated Broadway musical hits Madison for the first time. Whether you're new to the musical or a fan of the movie, which debuted at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival, you're sure to be delighted. My favorite character in the show is the charmingly quirky Dr. Pomatter played by Bryan Fenkart. He recently chatted with me about the hit show, how a bet started his theatre journey, and the challenges of the Sara Bareilles score.
Please tell readers a little about what to expect from WAITRESS.
Based on the movie starring Kerri Russell and Adrienne Shelly, who also wrote it, it's sort of a slice of life piece, not what you'd normally see in a Broadway Theatre. It's not a huge production number kind of show. Its' more about real people and real circumstances, and, of course, there's a little bit of musical theatre magic. It's a much more relatable down to earth sort of grounded piece and that's something that I think people really relate to as we go around the country.
Tell us about your character Dr. Pomatter and how you feel playing a character created by Nathon Fillion in the movie.
That's an honor for me. I've always loved Nathan Fillion. I watched Firefly so I'm a big fan of his. I actually based my characterization more on him than the Broadway production, because I hadn't seen the Broadway production at the time I was cast.
My character is comic relief. It's a delicate line of where he can't be too wacky and goofy otherwise you're not going to believe him in the moments when you really have to. So I enjoy the balancing act because he has to be this grounded, honest person, who has reasons for what he's doing. He's funny, but he's making some pretty poor decisions.
How is it singing a score by Sara Bareilles?
As a songwriter, she's somebody I looked up to for many years before WAITRESS. In fact, singing her music was something that attracted to me to the show, and to be able to sing her music every night is difficult, but also a real honor. She's very rangy in the way she writes. It's certainly a pleasure to sing. Sara Bareilles was very involved in the rehearsal process and I appreciated how hands on she was. She wanted to make sure the tour stayed true to what she initially created.
You mentioned the score is difficult to sing. Please elaborate.
Because she has such a wide range, that's how she writes. She will write songs that cover a vocal range that is difficult for people who aren't super talented like she is. It's a little harder to sing than you think, but she writes what she knows. It just so happens that she knows a much wider range than other singers do.
How did you got into theatre?
I actually started because I lost a bet in high school--a very strange way to start a career. It was a bet I made with a classmate. If she did better than me on a test, than I would have to join the drama, which I did. I always knew music and was always singing on the sly, but acting was something I fell in love with that year.
For college I went to Rutgers School of the Arts, and earned a BFA. Musical theatre was never a part of the plan. I don't dance at all. It's not in my skill set. My agent had to push me towards it. He said, "You sing, you act, why don't you try musical theatre?" I said, "Well, I don't dance." And he said, "A lot of principal roles don't." It's not a requirement for principal roles. And sure enough I'm still riding the wave. I actually found my agent doing stand up in New York. It was a very strange windy road to get here.
Tell me a little bit about the pie making in the show. Does it make for a little messiness backstage?
And on stage! There is always a significant layer of sugar and flour on stage. It gets into the costumes pretty frequently as well. I feel bad for the people cleaning up on the show.
It's always hard when there's eating on stage, because you have to eat and then sing, which is never advisable. I've had a few near choking moments during the end of Act 1.
Is there anything special audience members should keep an eye out for? Insider tips,
All of the little kids in the show, four or five year olds, are locally cast, so that's always fun.
Are there any dream roles you'd love to play?
I'm more of an originator. That's really where I want my career to go. I'm actually not a huge fan of roles that a lot of people have already played. This one was a different situation because I was originating it for the tour. I like to be the first to play a role, if I can.
Where can people find more of your music?
I have two albums that are available on all the music sites. One is titled Simple and Grey and the other is Important Man.
Inspired by Adrienne Shelly's beloved film, WAITRESS tells the story of Jenna - a waitress and expert pie maker, who dreams of a way out of her small town and loveless marriage. A baking contest in a nearby county and the town's new doctor may offer her a chance at a fresh start, while her fellow waitresses offer their own recipes for happiness. But Jenna must summon the strength and courage to rebuild her own life.
WAITRESS runs from July 24th through July 29th. Tickets are now available for WAITRESS at the Overture Center box office (201 State Street), by visiting overture.org, or by calling 608.258.4141.