Al Roker Calls Broadway Debut ‘One of the Most Exhilarating Experiences of My Life’

Morning talk show staple Al Roker is hitting the stage this fall as the “Today” host makes his Broadway debut in “Waitress.”

Roker, whose gave his first performance on Oct. 5, portrays Old Joe, a frequent customer at the diner where the musical is set. His was originally slated to leave on Nov. 11, though producers extended his run until Nov. 18.

Roker has made numerous cameo appearances in films and television shows (the long-time talk show host appeared in a memorable episode of “Will & Grace,” and most recently spoofed himself in the final “Sharknado” movie), but this marks his first time on stage. The 64-year-old said it was an opportunity he couldn’t turn down.

“It never occurred to me to do this, [but] they came to me,” he says. “The only reason I figure they did is that my character’s name is ‘Old Joe,’ so I’ve already got half the character down.”

Based on the 2007 film of the same name, “Waitress” features music and lyrics by Sara Bareilles. The musical first premiered on Broadway in 2016. Like the movie, the musical follows a waitress who enters a pie-making contest, in the hopes of earning enough money to leave her small town behind.

Roker had to learn to sing and dance for the production — he has a solo in the second act — and he credits his vocal coach, Deric Rosenblatt, for being the “Henry Higgins” to his “Eliza Doolittle.” Roker says he’s also been embraced by the “Waitress” producers and cast, calling them the, “kindest, most generous folks I’ve met in a long time.”

“Waitress” producer Barry Weissler says it was a natural fit to cast Roker in the musical, and he says audiences will be impressed by the weatherman’s turn on the Great White Way.

“We thought that if he can make the weather fun, he was very likely to be comfortable on stage,” Weissler says. “He’s also naturally funny, loves comedy, and really gets the humor and pathos in the script. And he really worked hard with our music department to deliver the song with great charm and grace.”

Roker will still appear on NBC’s “Today” each morning and is juggling both commitments until the end of his Broadway run in November. He says he’s been taking the new experience and hectic scheduling in stride. “I’m just making the sausage, but having a heckuva good time doing it,” he says. “This has been one of the most exhilarating experiences of my life.”

“Waitress” is playing at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre in New York. The current cast also includes Nicolette Robinson as Jenna, “Scandal’s” Katie Lowes as Dawn, and Adam Shapiro as Ogie. Tickets for Roker’s performances are still available and can be purchased at the box office or online.

VarietySPY editorial products are independently selected. If you buy something through our links, PMC may earn an affiliate commission.

More Biz

  • UTA

    UTA Launches Sports Division, Invests in Klutch Sports Group

    UTA is diving into the sports arena through an investment in Klutch Sports Group, the agency that represents LeBron James and other stars. Klutch Sports founder Rich Paul will serve as head of the newly created UTA Sports wing in addition to running his own banner. Paul launched Klutch Sports in 2012 in Cleveland. UTA [...]

  • New York's Brooklyn Bowl Celebrates 10

    New York's Brooklyn Bowl Celebrates 10 Years With Plans to Expand

    In the middle of a conversation about the tenth anniversary of Brooklyn Bowl — the live-music-and-bowling venue that opened a second location in Las Vegas in 2014 — owner Peter Shapiro casually mentions that he’s planning on opening a third location in the U.S. within the next 12 months. He declines to provide any more [...]

  • Rob Stringer

    Sony Unites Recorded Music and Publishing Under One Company

    Sony has created Sony Music Group, an umbrella for both its recorded-music operation — Sony Music Entertainment — and its publishing company — Sony/ATV — under SME chief Rob Stringer, according to an internal document obtained by Variety. The move will take effect on Aug. 1. A source close to the situation tells Variety that [...]

  • Ken Ehrlich Jane Ortner Education Award,

    Grammy Awards Producer Shuffle: Ben Winston to Take Over From Ken Ehrlich in 2021

    As Variety reported in December, Ben Winston will take the reins of the Grammy Awards as executive producer in 2021 after longtime telecast leader Ken Ehrlich completes his 40th ceremony next year. Winston has become a prolific producer for CBS and other outlets since he moved to the U.S. nearly five years ago to launch [...]

  • PUBG - Xbox One

    Chinese Streaming Firm DouYu Raises $775 Million on NASDAQ Debut

    Chinese live-streaming firm DouYu has set a price of $11.50 per ADS share for its stockmarket debut on NASDAQ. Company CEO Chen Shaojie was expected to ring the exchange’s opening bell. The share sale will raise a total of $775 million, and provide the company $517 million of fresh capital. At that price DouYu would [...]

  • Lenny Bruce (1925-1966) social critic and

    Paul Krassner Recalls Lenny Bruce, Cavalier Magazine 50 Years Later

    Men’s magazine Cavalier was launched by Fawcett Publications in 1952 (motto: “For the American Male”). It was published the year before Playboy, to which it has often been compared. Imagine that this was a bastion of cutting-edge comic literature. Back in the day, Cavalier tried to be seen as slightly hipper, more youthful and considered [...]

  • LiveXLive Names AOL and MTV Vet

    LiveXLive Names AOL and MTV Vet Dermot McCormack President

    Live entertainment digital media company LiveXLive Media today announced that AOL and MTV veteran Dermot McCormack has been named president of the company. According to the announcement, McCormack will lead the business and creative operations of LiveXLive, effective immediately. McCormack previously served as AOL’s Global President of Video and Studios, where he oversaw the video [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content