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How Broadway’s ‘Waitress’ Achieves that Fresh-Baked Smell

The Broadway musical “Waitress,” earning a heaping helping of positive reviews in the wake of its April 24 opening, is so fresh out of the oven that it’ll have theatergoers believing they actually smell pies baking.

That’s because they are. “We felt we needed a visceral experience,” said producer Barry Weissler of the show.

Based on Adrienne Shelley’s 2007 indie success, the musical, marking Sara BareillesBroadway songwriting debut, revolves around a dissatisfied waitress who pursues happiness with the pies she bakes. Weissler and his co-producer and wife, Fran Weissler, knew they wanted to fill the theater with that distinctive, delicious smell of treats baking. But achieving that smell stumped them.

“We tried a number of things, but it all came out chemical,” Barry Weissler said. “We sprayed the theater, but it smelled like those things you put in your car.”

The secret, they discovered, was to go for the real deal. “I brought a convection oven into the office and we started baking raw things,” he remembered at the production’s opening night party at Bryant Park Grill. “Danishes, pastries, pies. We finally hit on apple pie, overloaded with sugar and cinnamon, and we put a convection oven into the entranceway of the theater.”

They bake a pie at each performance, throughout the whole show. “We do eight pies a week,” said Fran Weissler.

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Those particular pies are too sweet to eat, the Weisslers advise. But as choreographer Lorin Latarro noted, a lot of the pie that the cast consumes onstage is, in fact, the real thing. And after the curtain comes down each night, that means one thing for the lucky cast and crew: Leftovers.

 

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