Sara Bareilles spoke to Playbill ahead of the Waitress restaging opening on Broadway on 2 September, talking about some of the changes to the book and staging, how they are paying tribute to Nick Cordero, and what she hopes the audience will take away from seeing the show again.

“It’s been beautiful. It’s been complicated. It’s been a surreal, exciting, emotional experience to come back. And I am so much more raw and emotional than I thought I would be. I think I thought I was kind of prepared, “I’ve done this before.” And I mean, from day one, getting back into the room with everyone, it was just so tender. Working together is just so tender. And the material for me in this time is just feeling so rich and so sad and so joyful. It’s like everything feels intensified because I think of what we’ve all gone through. We’re just all different people walking back into the room. 

“There’s some significant changes to actually how the show is mechanically happening on stage. So we don’t have automation anymore, so that a lot of our set changes, everything is being orchestrated very differently. So there’s been a lot of relearning. But some of it has been like riding a bike. I remember most of the music, so that’s nice! I’d be really worried if I didn’t! But it’s feeling fresh though! I think we’ve all been away from it long enough where there is space for rediscovery, which is really nice. And we’re actually being really intentional, about avoid muscle memory – we don’t want to fall back into just the same grooves, they’re so strong sometimes. I think we’re really trying to approach the material with a lot of intentionality and just a new perspective.

“There are certain things that have been revisited, like in the sense that we lost one of our original Broadway company members, Nick Cordero, sadly to COVID. And so we have this opportunity now to bake him into the material in a beautiful way. We’ve named a pie after him on the pie board, a ‘Big Ol’ Slice of Live Your Life Pie’, and there’s a new line in the show that references that pie. It’s been beautiful to kind of just tease out the little moments that are feeling that they just need a little bit of a spit shine. But that was one moment that felt very, very meaningful to us as a company, and I’m so excited for the audience to experience that with us.

“I got a call from our producers, Barry and Fran Weissler, I give them all the credit. You know, they really pushed hard to make this happen. We got this little pocket of time at one of the Shubert theatres, at the incredible Barrymore Theatre, and it was like, ‘Are you open to this?’ And for me it was like, yes, absolutely. To be a part of the community of artists welcoming people back into the theatre after this horrific and long-awaited time just feels like such a gift. It feels like a miracle that it’s even happening. We had a closing date, so to get this little pocket of time to come back and revisit this show and these themes of hope and resiliency, and community, it is just yes, yes, a million times, yes. 

“I first and foremost hope the audience feel safe. I am so proud of the theatres at large for being so stringent about our COVID policies, because I really feel like it’s just reflective of how the world is going to need to work until we really get this under control. Everybody’s vaccinated. Everybody’s in a mask. We are tested regularly. I am just really grateful for that. So as someone going to work, I can feel safe – as safe as we can be in this crazy time. But I just hope that the audience comes and I hope they just receive as much joy and as much heart as is being put forth in this show. This is an extraordinary cast. This is a lot of our original Broadway company members, coming back, and I feel so lucky to get to be inside the world of Waitress again as Jenna. My boyfriend, Joe Tippett, is taking on the role of Earl, he was who we built this role on, as he was our very, very original Earl. He’s extraordinary, and he’s been so tender about taking on the role of our beloved Nick. And so it’s just a beautiful sense of community and a real humanity that we’re kind of taking on backstage, that I really hope comes forth towards the audience. And they can feel like they got a warm hug. You know, we’re not touching but…!”