The Broadway theater and film hit Waitress, that closed suddenly in New York last December following a COVID spike and was shuttered through the holidays, is back on the stage, healthier than ever, on a national tour that takes it to the State Theatre in New Brunswick April 14-16.
The musical shut down amid the late omicron surge along with 14 other Broadway shows. It was closed in New York two weeks before its scheduled close on January 9, although its national tour outside New York continued.
“With only two weeks of performances remaining and due to positive cases of COVID detected in the company and crew at the Barrymore Theater, the decision has been made to curtail the engagement which was scheduled to run through January 9,” said a spokesperson for the Broadway show at the time it was shut down.
You can’t hold back a good show or a good waitress, either, though and the producers got Waitress up and running for this national tour.
Waitress had previously been closed since the start of the Pandemic in 2020, with all the others New York plays, following a four year run on Broadway. It re-opened in New York, briefly, last fall. The play followed the hit 2007 film that starred Kerri Russell and was written by Adrienne Shelly (Shelly was later murdered). The film debuted at the Sundance Film Festival and was then picked up by national distributors. It did quite well at the box office and was then turned into a Broadway musical.
I caught up with Dominique Kent, the co-star of the current touring musical headed for New Brunswick and a diner sidekick to Jenna, the star of the show, in the play. She and her colleagues were finishing up one set of plays and headed – in just an hour – to another theater in South Bend, Indiana, a part of their tour. Grabbing the phone and finishing packing at the same time, she talked about why the musical has been so successful on its tour. Dominique saw the play before it closed in New York, but was not in it when COVID hit.
“The COVID in New York - that’s so sad, for the cast of Waitress and all the other actors who got sick or lost their jobs, I feel for them,” she said.
Dominique, on tour for several months already, has figured out why audiences love the musical.
“I think the big lesson of the play is love. You see the love between my character, Becky, and Jenna, and Jenna and the other waitress, Dawn. Jenna needs our love and she gets it,” said Dominique.
In the play, soon to be in New Brunswick, Jenna, in an unhappy marriage, becomes pregnant and has her life turned upside down. She wants to escape from her husband and her situation. Not knowing what to do, she decides to create her own line if special pies, connected to the very all American diner she works at. Through it all, her waitress buddies and diner friends help her get through her problems.
“Becky, whom I play, is the traditional ‘big sister’ to Jenna. She helps her to see that things will get better,” said Dominique.
“I think he play is trying to say that Jenna- all of us – come upon hard times. We are very depressed. We discover, though, that we have friends and those friends are there for us. They get us through tough times – on stage. I think everybody in the audience connects to that. They are in different situations, but their friends and family get them through their troubles,” said Dominique.
The actress has never been a waitress herself, which surprised me. I thought that all actresses had to be waitresses. Isn’t that in the Constitution somewhere?
She laughs. “No, I was never a waitress. I’m from Los Angeles and you just would not believe how many of my friends are or were waitresses,” she said. “They all saw the play or movie and loved it. They connected immediately to the waitresses in the play. They saw themselves up on stage.”
They connected to the diner life, too.
“The opening song in the play is ‘Opening Up’ and it’s all about how diners operate. It is sheer craziness in all of them. Everybody is racing about and the customers are all very hungry. You make it through the shift, though. The end of the night and the waitress leave for home and says ‘ how on earth did we make it?’ We do, though,” said Dominique.
The play at the State Theatre is about one woman’s journey through tough times. “It’s a musical about healing,” said Dominique. “I think many plays are about healing. The story tells us that we all heal. The play itself is sort of a good doctor,” said Dominique.
The music and comedy in the play help to do that, too. “Hey, in these tough times we live in, we all need a good laugh,” said Dominique.
The actress is happy that many plays in New York are back on the boards. “I think people need to get out of the house because they were, at times, locked down in the Pandemic. They need to go to the theater and enjoy it – whether a drama or a musical. You see a play and then talk about it with friends for days. It’s a terrific escape from the Pandemic. I think all theater will bounce back, eventually. That has started. We are going in the right direction,” she said.
Will Dominique ever work as a waitress, though? If not, look at tragedy of that. Imagine having to go through the rest of your life without balancing 45 cups of coffee on a tray? Yelling out an order so loud they can hear you in Italy?
Ah, the joy of being a waitress…
Waitress has four performances at the State Theatre (15 Livingston Avenue) in New Brunswick. Performances are on Thursday, April 14 at 8:00pm; Friday, April 15 at 8:00pm; and Saturday, April 16 at 2:00pm & 8:00pm. Click here for ticket information.