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.
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