Some musicals have been said to have ‘the smell of success’, but no musicals have gone so far as to create an aromatic smell in the foyer.

The producers of the new musical Waitress, which opened on Sunday night, have been trying to perfume the theatre with the scent of baking, adding an olfactory extension to the show’s set, which replicates a small-town diner specialising in fresh pies.

“I wanted that aroma, and I wanted it desperately. It’s a wonderful intense surround for the show,” said one of the show’s lead producers, Barry Weissler.

The practice of scenting a space, although not uncommon in retail and hospitality industries, is unusual in theatre; Barry, best known as the lead producer of Chicago, said he could not think of a precedent. He said that he had experimented with artificial sprays, but that they “smelled like the things you dangle in a car,” and had tried installing a working oven in the fake kitchen onstage, but there were logistical and safety concerns. “It just failed, one attempt after another.”

Finally, the production hit upon a solution: installing a convection oven in an entry passageway just outside the doors to the theater’s orchestra seating. Before each performance, the show’s pie consultant, Stacy Donnelly, delivers an uncooked nine-inch double-crust apple pie; 20 minutes before the doors open, a theatre staffer puts it in the oven, allowing it to cook slowly through the show. The odor wafts into the back of the orchestra whenever the doors are ajar, particularly just before the first act and during intermission; its intensity varies based on the air flow.

Stacy, a Midtown Manhattan baker often called upon to make cakes for opening-night parties, has been working on Waitress for months. She has created pies for photo shoots and promotional events and for the set, made pies-in-jars for sale at the theatre, and tutored lead, Jessie Mueller, in dough-kneading and one-handed egg-cracking, but finding the right pie to scent the theatre turned out to be tricky.

Ultimately, she wound up cutting out lemon juice, a standard ingredient, which she deduced was sealing in apple juices that she needed to leak out, and spiking the pies with high doses of cinnamon and nutmeg, which are especially fragrant. The pies, made with Granny Smith apples, are cooked at about 325 to 350 degrees so they can continue to bake for about 90 minutes without burning.

“They’re not meant to be consumed. But the poor crew wants to eat it every time – they say, ‘It doesn’t taste right, but we can’t stop’!”