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Sara Bareilles ready to serve up her own tasty tunes in ‘Waitress’

Sara Bareilles says it just

Sara Bareilles says it just "felt like the right time" to take over the lead role in "Waitress," the Broadway musical she wrote. Credit: Getty Images / Brad Barket

The subtitle to Sara Bareilles’ best-selling memoir has parentheses. Good thing. The beloved, six-time Grammy-nominated singer and author of 2015’s “Sounds Like Me: My Life (So Far) in Song,” is about to add a new bullet point to her ever-expanding resume — Broadway star.

Bareilles, who earned a Tony nomination last year for writing the music and lyrics to the hit musical “Waitress,” will make her Broadway acting debut by jumping into the lead role of that show, replacing Jessie Mueller. She’ll play Jenna, a weary waitress with a knack for baking pies and belting out tunes. Fans can catch her onstage at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre from March 31 through June 11.

A native of Eureka, California, and a graduate of UCLA, Bareilles, 37, recently performed at the Academy Awards.

OK, we’re diving in with a hard-hitting question first. Ready?

Ready to go. [She laughs.]

What’s your favorite kind of pie?

Oh. [She chuckles.] I’m a little biased — my absolute favorite favorite is the wild blackberry pie my mom and I would make from scratch when I was a girl. It’s one of my favorite memories from growing up.

Good answer. There are tougher questions I could ask, but I really like pie. And I love that we can get it at your theater.

It’s so fun to talk to people about this. Pie, in general, is something people have an emotional attachment to. More than cake . . . which is for special occasions. Pies are part of our normal routine, and so people’s connection to it is really personal.

You have to work with real sugar, flour and other ingredients onstage. Do you cook at home?

I’m not gonna lie and tell you I’m a good cook. I enjoy cooking, but don’t have the affinity for throwing something together. But working with the ingredients onstage is one of the unique things about our show — the earthiness of it. We have silliness and comedy, too, but there’s still something grounded and real. I love that.

You’ve obviously sung these songs umpteen times in the past — you wrote them. Does having to perform them now onstage in a role give you a new sense of them? Are they harder to perform in this context?

Totally. The experience of singing a role onstage is so different from singing in a concert.

And it’s been a while. Your last show was . . .

My high school production of “Little Shop of Horrors.” I played Audrey. This has always been my dream. But my career took a left turn. I always say I feel like music chose me rather than the other way around. I didn’t position myself to make it as an artist. I just followed my nose to what I was passionate about. Worked hard. Got very lucky. It’s a real gift — to work on something you love — and that’s not lost on me.

Changing gears a sec — your Oscar-night performance, singing “Both Sides Now” for the “In Memoriam” tribute, was quite moving. I still hear people talking about it.

Thank you. I felt so honored. I really wanted to serve those artists that are gone. It almost takes the pressure off, because it was so not about me. And it was incredible — looking out at the audience, but no one’s looking at me, they’re watching the screen behind me. So I had this intimate experience, watching all these people wiping tears away and . . . being with their memories. I felt like I got this special gift. It was beautiful.


Yeah. It’s emotional. Although actually . . . [She chuckles.] I had a funny exchange with Jennifer Aniston just before I went on — kinda made a fool of myself, waving at her. And realized . . . ohmygosh, I don’t know her. She’s just very famous. I had that little brain-fart of, “Hey, I know you,” like we’re friends, but no she’s just on “Friends.” [She laughs.] So I walked onstage sorta in my own world, thinking, “Just sing the song, Sara.”

Back when “Waitress” opened, people asked why you didn’t star in it then, and you said you weren’t quite ready. What’s changed?

I didn’t have the bandwidth to write this show and be in it. Not at the start. It was in such better hands with Jessie Mueller. I learned so much from her. But when Jessie said she was moving on, I thought, yes, the desire is there for me. I’m as close to the show as I’ll ever be. All my friends are in the cast. I want to take advantage of the fact that we have this happy, healthy little show. It felt like the right time. The stars aligned.


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