One of the hottest tickets on Broadway is the stage adaptation of the 2007 film “Waitress.” The inaugural touring production arrives at the Broward Center in Fort Lauderdale on April 11, so leading man Bryan Fenkart, a veteran of the Tony-winning production of “Memphis: A New Musical,” shared some insights about the show.
If they haven’t seen the movie, what do audiences need to know about the story?
If you haven’t seen the movie, it’s a slice of life, about a young woman who is very gifted pie maker at this little diner along the highway. She’s the girl next door in a dead-end situation with a not great husband and a job she’s not crazy about. Then she finds out she’s pregnant and that awakens her to the dangers she’s never faced before. Her gynecologist has retired, there’s a new young doctor in town (Dr. Pomatter) and that’s me. They end up being catalysts for each other and fall in love. It’s a very human, grounded story about people you “know.”
They have an affair. That sounds pretty complicated or unethical at the very least, especially since your character is a doctor.
It’s a very delicate tightrope. The reason is he isn’t a bad guy, the villain is her husband… but if I had to define him, he’s a good guy that does a few bad things. That’s a trend—the antihero in entertainment—people who do good AND bad things. Even Jen, the lead character, is doing some bad things. She’s cheating on her husband. Is it understandable given the circumstances? There are no white hats and black hats, they’re both humans and they make risky mistakes.
Composer Sara Bareilles is a pop singer and songwriter. How would you describe her score for the musical? It must be different from the typical Broadway musical.
It’s so distinctly Sara from the moment you hear it. It doesn’t sound like her radio hits, but her signature is on it. That’s the mark of a great writer. It’s a remarkable artistic achievement to write songs that further the plot and really help tell the story, instead of just stand-alone pop hits. She has successfully done it on her first go. As far as the sound, you’d call it pop—with a country twinge—but that goes with the subject matter (of the show)…there’s a six-person band on the stage. That’s something I really like about the show. The band is always visible, instead of a “magical sound” underneath you in the pit, which has its place in musical theater.
In the same way your character is an unlikely hero, your theater career got an unusual start, didn’t it?
I was in high school. I was 16 and lost a bet to a classmate and had to join drama…At that time, I already liked music and had an affinity for writing and singing, but after that first play, I kept joining and eventually went to college to study drama.
“Waitress” will be presented at the Broward Center in Fort Lauderdale from April 11 – 22. Tickets start at $30 at BrowardCenter.org.