Tony Award-winning director Diane Paulus is a woman of many skills, but baking pies is not one of them. “I don’t even know how to cook,” she admits to Vanity Fair. Still, when she saw the 2007 film Waitress – the story of a woman trapped in an abusive relationship who tries to knead her problems away – she knew it had to be a musical: “Certain movies have that heartbeat. They have that potential to be even more fully realized in the musical-theatre format, to have a second life.”

The movie’s writer and director, actress Adrienne Shelly, was murdered in her apartment shortly before the film’s premiere (Keri Russell is holding Shelly’s infant daughter in the final scene). Even with that cloud of tragedy surrounding it, Waitress’ engine is that it’s funny. It has an off-kilter humour that could be insensitive in the wrong hands. Luckily, it’s in the right ones. The show, which opens this month at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre, stars Tony Award-winning (Beautiful) actress Jessie Mueller (who plays Jenna, the title role) and is the first musical in Broadway’s history with an all-female top creative team. “It’s exciting,” says Diane. “I hope we’re paving the way for younger women to say: I can do that.”

The “we” in question includes veteran screenwriter Jessie Nelson and five-time Grammy Award nominee Sara Bareilles, whom Paulus solicited to create the score. “Even though our life circumstances appear very different,” says Sara, “I found so much to hold on to within Jenna’s story. Her heartbreak was so visceral for me.” It’s a good thing Waitress is coming to New York – it’s more of a black-and-white cookie where the comic and tragic edges touch but don’t mix. And the results are bittersweet. “You’re laughing one minute,” muses Jessie Mueller, “and you’re engaged with the difficult things these characters are going through the next. Oh, and there’s pie… did I mention that?”