Photo credit: Waitress (Photo by Matthew Murphy)

Everything you need to know about ‘Waitress’ on Broadway

Find out "What's Inside" Waitress, back on Broadway in 2021.

Gillian Russo
Gillian Russo

It's amazing what baking can do. The simple story of a struggling pie chef and waitress, first told in an indie movie, ended up being the perfect recipe for a Broadway treat when adapted into the musical Waitress. Jessie Nelson and Sara Bareilles whipped up an emotional musical that's enjoyed a four-plus-year Broadway run and made the refrain "sugar, butter, flour" a key ingredient of many musical theatre lovers' vocabulary.

To make sure you have all the ingredients for an enjoyable time at Waitress, read our complete guide to Waitress on Broadway, and get your Waitress tickets on New York Theatre Guide.

What is Waitress about?

The musical centers on Jenna, a pie chef and waitress at a small-town Southern diner. She's stuck in a loveless and abusive marriage with her husband, Earl, and she's horrified to learn she's pregnant with his child. She receives support — and romantic affection — from her gynecologist, Dr. Pomatter, who is also married, complicating things further. She wants to save money to escape her life and build a better one for herself and her baby, and she learns about a pie-baking contest with a cash prize she sees as her chance. 

Keala Settle, Jessie Mueller and Jeanna de Waal in Waitress (Photo by Evgenia Eliseeva)

When did Waitress premiere?

Waitress first premiered at the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on Aug. 2, 2015. It then transferred to Broadway, beginning performances at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre on Mar. 25, 2016, and closing almost four years later on Jan. 5, 2020. However, the production was remounted in 2021, and the current run of Waitress opened at the Barrymore Theatre on Sept. 2, 2021.

Who wrote Waitress?

Jessie Nelson wrote the book for Waitress, and Grammy Award-winning singer/songwriter Sara Bareilles wrote the music and lyrics.

Is there a Waitress movie?

Yes — Waitress began as a 2007 indie film directed by Adrienne Shelly. It stars Keri Russell as Jenna, and Nathan Fillion, Cheryl Hines, Shelly, and Andy Griffith are also in the cast. The musical is based on the movie.

What theatre in New York is Waitress playing at?

Waitress is at the Barrymore Theatre until January 9, 2022.

What is the running time of Waitress?

Waitress is 2 hours and 30 minutes long, including one intermission.

Cast of Waitress (Photo by Joan Marcus)

Who is in the cast of Waitress?

The original Broadway cast of Waitress included Jessie Mueller as Jenna, Drew Gehling as Dr. Pomatter, Dakin Matthews as Joe, Keala Settle as Becky, Kimiko Glenn as Dawn, Christopher Fitzgerald as Ogie, and Nick Cordero as Earl.

The current Broadway cast includes original cast members Gehling, Matthews, and Fitzgerald. Sara Bareilles currently stars as Jenna, and country singer Jennifer Nettles will assume the role on October 19. The cast also includes Charity Angel Dawson as Becky, Caitlin Houlahan as Dawn, Eric Anderson as Cal, and Joe Tippett as Earl.

What celebrities have performed in Waitress?

Plenty of celebrities have taken on the show's principal roles. Most notable, perhaps, is Bareilles, who has played the role on Broadway for a total of four limited engagements, including her Broadway debut in 2017 and the current production. (She also performed the role a fifth time on the West End.) Other celebrities that have performed as Jenna include Smash star Katharine McPhee and singer/songwriter Jordin Sparks.

Dr. Pomatter is also a popular role for celebrity engagements. Singer/songwriter Jason Mraz took on the role during one of Bareilles's stints, and Madam Secretary and Jersey Boys actor Erich Bergen, New Kids on the Block member Joey McIntyre, and Supergirl actor Jeremy Jordan have all assumed the role on Broadway.

YouTube personalities Colleen Ballinger and Todrick Hall have appeared in Waitress as Dawn and Ogie, respectively. The Real O'Neals and Booksmart actor Noah Galvin and Ocean's Eleven actor Eddie Jemison have also played Ogie; notably, Jemison played the role in the 2007 movie.

News anchor Al Roker and actress June Squibb have taken on the role of diner owner Joe. When Squibb played the role, the character's name was changed to Josie.

What are the songs in Waitress?

Bareilles wrote an original score for Waitress, with all-new music and lyrics created specifically for the musical. The ballad "She Used to Be Mine" which Jessie Mueller performed at the 2016 Tony Awards and is the lead single for Bareilles's solo album of Waitress songs, is one of the show's most popular tunes. All the songs in Waitress are below.

Act I

"What's Inside" - Jenna and Company
"Opening Up" - Jenna, Becky, Dawn, Cal and Company
"The Negative" - Becky, Dawn and Jenna
"What Baking Can Do" - Jenna and Company
"Club Knocked Up" - Nurse Norma and Pregnant Patients
"Pomatter Pie" - Band
"When He Sees Me" - Dawn and Company
"It Only Takes a Taste" - Dr. Pomatter and Jenna
"You Will Still Be Mine" - Earl and Jenna
"A Soft Place to Land" - Jenna, Becky and Dawn
"Never Ever Getting Rid of Me" - Ogie, Dawn and Company
"Bad Idea" - Jenna, Dr. Pomatter and Company

Act II

"I Didn't Plan It" - Becky
"Bad Idea" (Reprise) - Jenna, Dr. Pomatter, Becky, Cal, Dawn, Ogie and Company
"You Matter to Me" - Dr. Pomatter and Jenna
"I Love You Like a Table" - Ogie, Dawn and Company
"Take It From an Old Man/Ma'am" - Joe/Josie and Company

"Dear Baby" - Jenna
"She Used to Be Mine" - Jenna
"Contraction Ballet" - Jenna and Company
"What's Inside (Reprise)" - Company
"Everything Changes" - Jenna, Becky, Dawn and Company
"Opening Up" (Finale) - Company

What did the reviews of Waitress say?

The reviews of Waitress were generally positive, with many critics praising the show's score. The New York Theatre Guide review calls Bareilles's music "sublime" and praises Mueller, "whose skill at delivering a whole universe in a song is astonishing. Her range is stratospheric and her heart is in every note." In Tulis McCall's review, she says: "That is where the bravery of this show lies: in the tale of a woman who is living her life by putting one foot in front of the other every day."

Reviews in publications like The New York Times made similar assessments. That review reads, "Much of the score, by the pop singer-songwriter Sara Bareilles, is appealing, drawing on the sounds of country music reflecting the Southern setting, but also containing more traditional Broadway-pop balladry" and "Jenna seems fully drawn from life, and the emotional arc of her character conforms to familiar stories about oppressed women finding their inner strength."

What awards has Waitress won?

Christopher Fitzgerald won a Drama Desk Award and an Outer Critics Circle Award for his performance as Obie in the original Broadway cast. The musical itself was nominated for four Tony Awards, including Best Musical, Best Original Score for Bareilles, Best Leading Actress for Mueller, and Best Featured Actor for Fitzgerald. It was also nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Musical Theatre Album as well as multiple Drama Desk, Drama League, and Outer Critics Circle Awards.

Cast of Waitress (Photo by Joan Marcus)

Fun facts about Waitress

Waitress is one of a few Broadway shows with an all-female creative team, including Nelson, Bareilles, director Diane Paulus, and choreographer Lorin Latarro.

At a theatre that's home to Waitress, the theatre is known to smell like pie because a real apple pie bakes in a convection oven in the theatre. In addition, audience members can buy and eat individual servings of pie in mason jars at the show.

Original Broadway cast member Nick Cordero died in 2020 due to complications from COVID-19. The menu board in the Broadway and tour sets now feature an item called "A Big Ol Slice of Live Your Life Pie" in his honor, with the name coming from one of his original songs.

Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Paula Vogel was originally tapped to write the book for Waitress and was in talks with Paulus; however, she had to withdraw in 2014 due to scheduling conflicts.

How do I get tickets for Waitress on Broadway?

Get tickets for Waitress by purchasing them on New York Theatre Guide here.

Photo credit: Waitress (Photo by Matthew Murphy)

Originally published on

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