The new hit musical Waitress is coming to West Michigan through Broadway Grand Rapids this month. The musical is based on the movie by Adrienne Shelly and has original music and lyrics by singer Sara Bareilles. On top of that, it was created by an all-female creative team.
Waitress tells the story of Jenna, a waitress, who is unhappy in her marriage and looks for an escape from her small town and unhappy life. While Jenna seeks a way out — through a baking contest and the town’s new doctor — she is surrounded by her fellow waitresses who all experience different problems that they need to solve as well. Backed by a fun, bouncy pop soundtrack, Jenna and her friends find courage and strength to move through the waves of life.
Before the show comes to Broadway Grand Rapids at the end of the month,
Revue talked with Maiesha McQueen, who plays Becky, Jenna’s friend and coworker.
Who is Becky?
She is a truth teller and she has a husband who’s older and sick, who she spends a lot of time taking care of. And even though she loves him, she’s … (unhappy) in the relationship, and so a lot of her (character) comes in being at the diner and sort of being an advice giver, a truth teller to both Dawn and Jenna. At the top of the show, she and Jenna, you can tell that there’s a rapport there, but they definitely have to go through some things in order to become sister-friends. I would say she’s very important in terms of Jenna having the support that she needs in order to leave her current situation, but they definitely are the epitome of (how) conflict can lead to intimacy, because they go head to head.
Becky’s really the only person who tells Jenna the whole truth and nothing but the truth, and that ultimately allows them to become really, really, really close friends at the end.
How has it been trying to relate to your character, Becky?
We have some similarities. I guess some people would say that I’m a truth-teller as well. There’s also a sense of humor that she has that’s a little bit more biting than mine, or can be. For me, I’m a bit more nurturing from the very beginning. I don’t know if that’s who Becky necessarily is, (but) it’s who she becomes.
What are some common themes that ring throughout the story of Waitress?
Definitely womanhood, femininity, the bond that women can have that is very special and specific. Also, just returning to self. … Sometimes we have to go through things that may not look good on paper or may not be approved by everyone, but they lead us to the finish line. Everybody’s journey is different, but as long as it leads you closer to yourself, that’s what’s important, just being truthful and honest, and that life is complicated and layered.
How is the music?
It’s as brilliant as the pop songs Sara Bareilles is famous for. It is current, it is soulful. The lyrics are clever and beautiful and thoughtful. And, to me, the music is unlike any other musical that’s ever been written, because you have songs that you could hear on the radio, you have songs that are very musical theater-y, you have songs that are so soulful they almost sound like gospel songs, you have ballads, and you have up tempos. There’s just such an array of music.
How does it feel to be a part of a show that was done by an all-female creative team?
It feels amazing. It feels like you’re doing something special every time we do the show. It’s such an empowering story, which is so unique because you could go from gut-wrenching laughter to tears streaming down your face because, again, that’s life.
What do you hope audience members go home thinking about after seeing this musical?
For some, it’s just a fun time. For others, it’s, ‘Oh my god, that’s my life.’ For some audience members, it’s kind of difficult to take that walk with her (Jenna). I don’t have any expectations necessarily of what audiences walk away with. It’s my job to try to tell the story that they will listen to, to be a reflection of truth and compassion so that they’re able to have compassion for the people onstage.