UK Tour Wins West End Wilma Award

The UK and Ireland tour of Waitress the Musical was named Best Touring Production at the West End Wilma Awards 2022 last night.

The seventh West End Wilma Awards took place at Leicester Square Theatre in the heart of London’s West End, celebrating the best of UK Theatre. The ceremony was first held in Soho in 2014, with the 2019 awards taking place at the now-closed Café de Paris.

Waitress took home Best Touring Production, sponsored by the Orchard Theatre, Dartford, whilst Waitress alum, Lucie Jones, took home two awards - Best Cabaret/Solo Performance (sponsored by the Phoenix Arts Club) for her February 2020 solo gig at the Adelphi Theatre, which was attended by Sara Bareilles and other West End cast members, and Best Takeover In A Role (sponsored by Towngate Theatre) for Elphaba in Wicked. Lucie previously won the Best Takeover in 2019 for Jenna in Waitress on the West End.

Waitress the Musical Coming to Sweden in 2023

The Östgöta theatre, Östgötateatern, in Norrköping, have announced Waitress the Musical will premiere in Sweden in autumn 2023.

Nils Poletti, theatre creative director of Östgötateatern, said: "I am extremely proud to offer Östgötateatern the Swedish premiere of this fantastic musical. I saw it myself in London and have been hooked ever since. Now it's finally ours and will be available to you soon!"

Casting for the show closed in May, with the show due to open in autumn 2023.

Non-Equity Tour Cast File Grievance

The Actors' Equity Association, the union that represents performers and stage managers on professional stages on Broadway and beyond, has filed a grievance with Waitress producers for profiting from both union and non-union workers at the same time.

Waitress is currently running two tours - a tour of mini-residencies of Waitress, featuring Equity actors and stage managers, is concurrently running alongside the non-union tour by NETworks.

Equity has uncovered evidence that the licensor, National Artists Management Company, has a financial interest in the non-Equity production. This violates the union recognition clause of both Equity’s Production Contract and Short Engagement Touring Agreement to which NAMCO and Barry and Fran Weissler are party, through their membership in the Broadway League.

When Equity first approached the National Labor Relations Board, the Waitress producers had performances planned through 2023. NETworks, the production company, subsequently informed the NLRB that the show was now scheduled through June 2022, which would not allow enough time for a union vote. In response, Equity has withdrawn its election petition. Equity, however, will continue to work to seek union protection for the Waitress workers. 

“It is obvious that these producers fear the will of their workers,” said Al Vincent, Jr., executive director of Actors’ Equity Association, in a statement. “But this problem is much bigger than one employer. Equity additionally has open grievances against the John Gore Theatrical Group and Nederlander Presentations, Inc. for their own double-breasting practices. By pursuing legal action, we intend to get at this issue at its source.” 

“The members of this company have been vocal that they want union representation,” added Stefanie Frey, Equity’s director of organizing and mobilisation. “And this new pathway will make things right for them - and for hundreds of other stage managers and actors being denied the wages and workplace protections a union guarantees. When we prevail in this grievance process, and I am confident that we will, these workers will retroactively be placed on Equity contract for the entirety of the time the Equity Waitress has been contracted, and compensated in salary and benefits accordingly.”

STEAM Motion and Sound Working On Waitress Recording

STEAM Motion and Sound are officially working on the professional screen recording of Waitress the Musical, shot at the Barrymore Theatre in its Broadway revival.

STEAM are well-established within the theatre community, and captured the stage show of Andrew Lloyd Webber's Love Never Dies, as well as the  25th Anniversary Concert of Les Misérables at London's O2 Arena.

Prior to the COVID-19 lockdown, they produced the full length film of Kinky Boots, Live in London, which was shown in cinemas throughout the world. They have recently captured The Prince of Egypt, live at the Dominion Theatre in London, and are due to capture Heathers the Musical, live at The Other Palace in London's Victoria, during May 2022.

Waitress the Musical's full length recording, starring Sara Bareilles, is due to be released in 2023.

Tour Performance in Oxford, UK Cancelled Due to COVID-19

The producers of the UK tour of Waitress are sorry to announce that, due to the number of COVID-19 cases in the performing company, it has become necessary to cancel tonight’s performance at the New Theatre Oxford.

A statement said that they fully expect all performances for the remainder of the week to take place.

COVID-19 caused havoc to the tour last week in Edinburgh, with many ensemble members playing lead roles, and two former West End cast members flying to Scotland to join the cast.

On 22 April, Olivia Mitchell became the youngest person to play Jenna, and the first person of colour to play Jenna in the UK, with Scarlet Gabriel as Becky, Charlie Martin as Dawn, Ben Morris as Cal, and Christopher D. Hunt as Joe. Mark Willshire and Laura Selwood, who were both part of the West End cast, returned to show with Mark starring as Earl, and Laura doing a split track ensemble/swing role, with Donal Brennan.

Update (Tuesday 26 April): The tour officially opened in Oxford this evening, with Joel Montague reprising his West End role as Ogie.

Stephanie Torns Talks Leading Waitress Limited Engagements

Stephanie Torns, who is leading the cast of Waitress as Jenna Hunterson after understudying the role in the pre-Broadway run at the American Repertory Theatre, as well as on Broadway, talks about taking the lead role for its 2022 limited engagements.

You have had quite the journey with Waitress. Can you tell me a little bit about that journey?

A very long but lovely one! I started with the show out of town at ART in 2015, and then we were very lucky, we right away, the next year, went straight to Broadway, which is amazing. So, I never left! I stayed with the show, I watched every person come in and out that diner door. And then was very lucky to have been a part of the closing company back in January of 2020, and had this beautiful moment. Then, of course, this pandemic hit, and Broadway shut down, and when Broadway announced that it was coming back in 2021 in the fall, I was so excited for all of my friends, but in my brain I did not think I'd be apart of that reopening because we closed. And so, when we were one of the first Broadway musicals to come back, I was just ecstatic and very grateful and had a lovely experience once again. And then that closed, and I thought it was over yet again, and here we are again!

Here we are! How do you feel now having the opportunity to lead the cast as Jenna in this tour?

I'm so excited. There are many times in the past that I hoped it would happen, and I do believe that everything happens for a reason, and for whatever reason I'm supposed to be doing it now, where I'm at in life and who I've become, and I love it. The group is so special. I love showing up, I love leading. It starts from the top down, with our show. It's about kindness and love, and I think when you can lead in that way it trickles down and it becomes a special experience for everybody. So I'm very grateful right now to be able to be the one leading that way.

What were rehearsals like?

Throughout this whole time I've been able to, from the ground up, see this show build, and I've been in the rehearsal room numerous times watching it grow, but I've never been Jenna in this rehearsal process like that. And so, to be that, it feels like a whole new show for me because I'm really getting the opportunity to find new things. As an understudy you're thrown on and you kind of just have to go with the flow of things, right? And know your numbers, and know your lines, and you don't get the opportunity to really sit with the material like this. And also, we have a lot of new people, which is so exciting! It's been nice to watch new people learn the show that I know and love so dearly. It's been really great, they're letting us all find our versions of these characters and this show, which is really special. It's been really awesome, the rehearsals were a nice reminder to us all about what this beautiful show is about, and the legacy that is Adrienne Shelly and her beautiful vision that we get to continue on for her.

What would you say that you have learned from the character of Jenna?

I love this role so much because I feel she is an empath. She doesn't take a moment for herself often, and she wants to make sure that everyone else around her feels good. I think the biggest thing that I love about the role is she has such a big heart. And even when life is tough, and she is going through a lot of mixed emotions inside, she doesn't crumble. I think the biggest thing I've learned from the role is that she really is the queen of kindness and goodness, which is a line in the show that's said to her, and it's true. And I think the role is about being an empath and caring so deeply about other people that you kind of lose yourself along the way.

Do you have a favourite song in the show?

Ugh, that's such a hard question! It's a hard question because obviously Sara writes amazing music. My favourite song to sing is A Soft Place to Land, which is with the other two waitresses. But my favourite song in the whole show is I Didn't Plan It, which the role of Becky sings to Jenna. So I get to stand there and watch my friend sing this amazing song at me.

It's an amazing moment.

Yeah, and it's such a powerful song, and every lovely person who has stepped into that role of Becky, I've been very honoured to watch them sing it.

Have you had any favorite fan encounters in your time with the show?

So many! I am very lucky. I've received some of the most beautiful gifts from our fans. I've been asked to write my handwriting so they can get a tattoo of my handwriting with lyrics from the show. At first I was very hesitant, and every time they'd ask me in a letter they're like, "Can you write this lyric from the show?" I'd always write, "Please ask your parentals, or whoever you need to, before getting this done!" I actually ran into a few of them recently who showed me my handwriting on their body, which is crazy.

I've received so many beautiful books that were made from tweets from other people that have come to the show, and they put it all in a book of all these beautiful words of affirmation about when I've gone on. So, I have, like, three books that are just beautiful. It's unreal to me what the people have created for me throughout this time. Someone drew a character sketch of me as Jenna, and it's a poster size on a guest check, and it's just gorgeous and it's framed, and at my parents' house because I was like, "I don't want to lose this or break this!" So, yeah, the list could go on, for sure.

What would you like to say to people who are going to come and see the show?

I'm excited because we get to do it in an intimate space in Charlotte. It's less seats than a Broadway house, which is amazing because I think our show is a play with music - with fabulous music. But I would love for them to come and for two and a half hours escape whatever stuff is going on in their lives, and enjoy our beautiful show. And also, I hope they find someone they relate to. The beautiful thing about our show is it's real people, it's not in 'make believe land', and people can relate, or know someone, or see themselves in these people, and really be moved by the story that is Waitress.

Non-Equity Tour Cast Seek to Join Union

The Actors' Equity Association, the union that represents performers and stage managers on professional stages on Broadway and beyond, has filed with the National Labour Relations Board to represent the actors and stage managers of the current non-Equity tour of Waitress.

The filing was triggered by a card campaign - the first for Equity in more than a decade -in which a "critical mass" of company members expressed their desire to be represented by the theatrical union. In the coming days, a more formal election will be held among company members that, if successful, would clear Equity to begin bargaining on the company's behalf with the tour's presenter, NETworks.

A new tour of mini-residencies of Waitress, featuring Equity actors and stage managers, is due to start soon, meaning there will be concurrently running union and non-union tours. Non-union company members cited the union production's dramatically higher pay - the non-union performers are reportedly being paid a third of what their union counterparts receive - and comparatively less stringent safety protocols as the reasoning behind their decision to unionise.

Equity said, "This season Waitress sent out 2 tours – 1 on a full Equity Production contract, the other without union actors or stage managers. We reached out to workers on the non-Equity tour to find out how they felt about doing the same show for 1/3 the pay and few workplace protections. Their answer: not great! Our conversations turned to how Equity might help with the situation, which grew into a card campaign, a formal mechanism for members of the company to authorize Equity to bargain on their behalf. There’s no limit to what we can achieve when we stand together, and your support means the world to the Waitress company. Call on NETworks to treat these artists with the respect all workers deserve and share your support." You can register your support for the company here.

A company statement said, "We are proud of the work we are doing bringing this wonderful show to audiences across the country, but the work we do is the same work our friends in the Equity tour do, so we are asking our employers why we can’t be treated with the same respect. We have tried to work with management to improve our conditions on multiple fronts and have come to the conclusion that we need a union to work on our behalf. We now appreciate Equity helping us come together as a company and showing us a clear pathway to fair treatment."

Equity has also said that videos of the non-union actors have been used to train performers with the Equity tour. "Clearly, the workers in both productions are equally talented and hardworking, doing the exact same job for different audiences. For equal work, they should receive equal protections and equal pay," said Equity Executive Director Al Vincent, Jr.

Dominique Kent talks to the New Jersey Stage

Dominique Kent, starring as Becky in the current tour of Waitress the Musical spoke to the New Jersey Stage, before heading to another theatre in South Bend, Indiana. 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.

“Becky, whom I play, is the traditional ‘big sister’ to Jenna. She helps her to see that things will get better. I think the 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.

“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. 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.

“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.”

“It’s a musical about healing. I think many plays are about healing. The story tells us that we all heal. The play itself is sort of a good doctor. In these tough times we live in, we all need a good laugh. 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 theatre 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.”

Brian Lundy Talks About Playing Ogie

Brian Lundy caught up with Out in Jersey, a LGBTQ+ New Jersey publication, talking about playing Ogie on the current US tour.

How long have you been portraying Ogie?

I’ve been playing Ogie since we opened the tour, pre-pandemic in October of 2019.

How are you personally and Ogie the same, and how are you different?

Ogie and I are both pretty optimistic and idealistic. I can’t say I’d ever tell someone, “I love you means you’re never ever ever getting rid of me,” after a first date, but I definitely understand the sentiment.

How does it feel to be part of this production?

It feels so special to be able to share this story of female empowerment and community on tour. It’s such an important story to be telling, and I’m proud that I get to play a piece in it.

At what age did you start performing?

I’ve been in singing and dance classes since I was a kid, but my first musical was in the 6th grade when I played Kenickie in Grease.

What part of Brooklyn did you grow up in? What was it like growing up there and being a gay theatre kid, or did all that come later?

I grew up in Marine Park in south Brooklyn! Theater has always been a welcome place for me to express myself and be entirely authentic without judgment, and that’s why it’s such a comfortable home.

What brings your competitive side out?

Board games!

What do you find most challenging about this role?

The stamina it takes to play Ogie is definitely a challenge but also a rewarding one because even on the tough days, Ogie has a way of sparking joy in Brian.

What is your all-time favourite Broadway show, and why?

My favorite Broadway show is A Chorus Line because of the storytelling of the performers’ life and, of course, the choreography and music!

What is your dream role?

My dream role is Bobby in Company, Elder McKinley in Book of Mormon, or really any Sondheim!

What is your favorite song in Waitress, and why?

My favorite song to perform in Waitress is the Finale because I love getting to share the stage with the whole cast, and it’s such a wonderful full-circle moment for the audience to see how far Jenna has come throughout the show.

Stephanie Torns to Lead Waitress Limited Residencies

Stephanie Torns, who was part of the ensemble and starred as the primary understudy Jenna in Waitress during its try-outs at the ART and during both Broadway runs, has been announced as the star of the show's forthcoming limited residencies.

The shows will reunite former Broadway cast members and new cast members, as well as some who have appeared in the First National Tour and non-Equity tours of the show. Bryan Fenkart, who starred in the First National Tour, will reprise his role as Dr. Pomatter, whilst Olivia Phillip, who was part of the Broadway ensemble and appeared in the restaging, will star as Becky. Kendyl Ito joins the Waitress family as Dawn, alongside Timothy John Smith as Cal and Daniel Quadrino as Ogie.

Larry Marshall reprises his Broadway role as Joe, and Matt DeAngelis reprises his role as Earl from the First National Tour. Bailey McCall, who led the first part of the non-Equity tour as Jenna, will star in the ensemble and understudy for Stephanie.

The show is currently due to return to Charlotte for a special five-week engagement from 19 April 19 to 22 May 2022 in the Booth Playhouse, followed by a five-week engagement at Cleveland's Playhouse Square from 26 May to 26 June 2022 in the Hanna Theatre.