Houston

Waitress - National Tour

Sara Bareilles scores this new musical, based on the film of the same name.

Houston's Broadway at the Hobby Center Chats with Waitress Star Jessie Shelton

Houston's Broadway at the Hobby Center Chats with Waitress Star Jessie Shelton
Jessie Shelton
Given the opportunity to share your talents with open, honest, kind, curious and fierce individuals, there are no limits to what you can do.”

Order up! Waitress opens at Houston's Hobby Center on January 29, and we can’t wait for you to experience this sweet show about Jenna, a waitress and expert pie-maker who dreams of a way out of her small town and rocky marriage. Jessie Shelton, who plays Dawn, one of Jenna’s fellow waitresses in the local diner, gives us the "inside slice" on what to expect from this new musical!

What is one thing you would want Houston subscribers to know about Waitress before it hits the Hobby Center stage?
This show is full of real people. I find this to be all the more true as we tour from city to city, meeting the locals and hearing their stories. There are joys and struggles that these characters experience that I think everyone can identify with at some point or another in their lives. It’s cathartic seeing pieces of ourselves up on a stage and sharing that experience with people, whether you’re onstage or off.

Pie definitely has a supporting cast member role in this production! Do you get in on any of the baking action…do you ever get sick of pie? What is your favorite dessert?
We joke that the show is actually “Props The Musical” and many of those props are pies [laughs]. I get to help bake the "meet your dream chocolate cream pie." Though I don’t bake a lot in real life, the camaraderie we get to see amongst the three women in "A Soft Place to Land" as they bake that pie is one of the most beautiful moments in the show. We have such a capacity to give each other strength even when we aren’t feeling very strong ourselves. But I digress...I honestly haven’t gotten sick of pie yet. I tend to be a brownie/ice cream/cheesecake person myself, but I will say my new favorite dessert is a banana cream pie situation made by one of our wonderful crew members (who will not be named because then the secret would be out!) But seriously—the best thing I’ve maybe ever tasted.

What is your favorite song or scene in the show and why?
"You Matter to Me" and the scene with Dr. Pomatter and Jenna in the pantry that precedes it is definitely a favorite. Seeing Jenna in such a difficult and vulnerable place is amazing to watch, and Christine Dwyer is such a fantastic actor! Living that moment with her night after night makes me look at my own life and realize that we are all doing the best we can and must try to be kind to ourselves in a world that will not always be kind to us. Some other favorite moments that I’m actually in are when Cal and Becky are talking downstage at various times. Christine and I have a lot of business to take care of upstage and we always find a way to crack ourselves up. Breathing life into the diner in those background moments without dialogue provides us opportunities to flesh out our characters and relationships even more. Every day, just like every show, is a little different and always fresh and fun.

This show is unique and groundbreaking in that it features an all-female creative team with original music and lyrics by six-time Grammy nominee Sara Bareilles, a book by screenwriter Jessie Nelson and direction by Tony Award winner Diane Paulus. What impact has that had on you as an actress and your role in this production?
I have been fortunate in the past several years to work with teams full of amazing women and a plethora of LGBTQ+A individuals. They are so incredibly inspiring to me and the stories they are telling to wider and more varied audiences gives me so much faith in what the arts, and live theatre in particular, can accomplish. Honestly, given the opportunity to share your talents with open, honest, kind, curious and fierce individuals, there are no limits to what you can do.

You and Becky (Maiesha McQueen) make quite the comic duo as waitresses in the diner. Do you enjoy getting to flex your comedic muscle?
Comedy is HARD. And some of the most fun I’ve ever had! We continue to get to know each other and goof around on and offstage. The love, respect and sense of play we share makes its way into the show in a delightful way. Work becomes play in a big way and I am so incredibly grateful for each and every member of the cast because of how everyone is down to play and find new things every day. It keeps us all alive and alert on long contracts like this.

Did you do any “research” before this role, i.e. any time spent waitressing?
I personally have very little waitressing experience, but I have lots of friends in the industry so I’ve heard a LOT of stories. I also spend quite a bit of time in diners. Over the years I’ve met many characters, whether they’re on staff or sitting in the booth across from me [laughs]. I definitely look at waitstaff more specifically now.

Have you ever performed in Houston before?
This tour marks my first trip to Houston! I am stoked to experience all the city and its people have to offer. Recommendations always welcome :)

Broadway at the Hobby Center is presented by the Hobby Center Foundation. Sales tax exempt pursuant to Texas Tax Code Section 151.3101 (a)(3). Broadway Across America is an agent of and production services provider for the Hobby Center Foundation.

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