The California native told Variety at the opening night of “Waitress” at the Pantages in Hollywood that bringing the show she composed, wrote the lyrics for, and starred in–twice–felt like coming home.
“LA was my home for 15 years. I went to UCLA, so there’s just a real sense of pride and gratitude to be able to come home and share this project that has been the great love of my life for the last five years with what feels like a very hometown place for me,” Bareilles said on the red carpet.
The “Gravity” singer, who played pie-maker Jenna Hunterson in March 2017 and again in January 2018 on Broadway, recalled when she jumped at the chance to play the titular waitress.
“When Jessie Mueller, our incredible original lead, left the show, there was a part of me that just raised her hand inside myself of really wanting to get a chance to try. I love the show so much and getting a chance to have a turn to tell the story myself was one of the greatest artistic honors I’ve ever experienced in my life.”
Although her two stints on Broadway eventually came to a close, this year’s Tony Awards co-host is very eager to get back on the stage. “I can’t say enough about how beloved the theater community is to me,” she said.
But even with rave reviews for both her and co-host Josh Groban, don’t expect to see them taking on any bigger hosting duties anytime soon. “That absolutely was not an audition for the Oscars,” she laughed off.
For now, she’s currently busy creating the Apple TV series “Little Voices” with “Waitress” book writer Jessie Nelson and J.J. Abrams. The longtime “Felicity” fan Bareilles was ecstatic to work with Abrams.
“I encountered J.J. at an event and we got to talking. And he’s really always wanted to do something about music. Meanwhile, my partner Jessie [Nelson] was developing a singer-songwriter show and we all just merged forces,” Bareilles shared.
Although the dramedy is still in the “beginning stages,” the singer-songwriter was open to the idea of performing the new music she’s been writing on “Voices.” “Who knows? We haven’t made it yet,” she offered.
One film project she’d be happy to join is “Star Wars.” And while she hasn’t asked Abrams about making a cameo yet, she would be all for appearing in the space saga. “J.J., make it happen!” she said.
Bareilles is also in the midst of writing songs for her new album, which is being recorded in Los Angeles. “It’s a rootsy record that is really reflective of my feelings about the world right now,” she said. “It’s a return to a singer-songwriter record for me.”
While there is no release date yet, Bareilles hopes to share at least one or two songs before the end of 2018.
Variety also caught up with resident Jenna Hunterson at the Pantages, Desi Oakley, who reminisced about how Bareilles taught her how to tie her apron for the show.
“During tech rehearsals, [Bareilles] goes, ‘Desi, let me show you what I did.’ And she tied it up for me. Now I tie my apron like that every single show,” Oakley revealed.
In preparation for the part, Oakley also learned how to bake a pie from her mom. “I had never made a pie before, so my mother flew to New York City and taught me how. It was my great-grandmother’s recipe for a tart cherry pie.”
Speaking of pie, the Pantages made sure to satisfy any stray cravings post-show, as they were selling numerous “Waitress”-dubbed treats in mason jars in the lobby of the theater.
Both Bareilles and Nelson took to the stage after the curtain call, thanking the audience and company of the show. “This is particularly special for Sara and I because this is where I saw my first play when I was 5-years-old,” Nelson told the attendees, who were still standing long after the last bow.
The opening night performance also played host to a “Mean Girls” reunion between Aaron Samuels (Jonathan Bennett) and Damian Leigh (Daniel Franzese), who only sat a manner of rows apart and took pictures together to the delight of their fellow theatergoers during Intermission.
Mario Lopez, Natasha Rothwell (“Insecure,” “Love, Simon”), Kate Flannery (“The Office”), Courtney Reed (“Aladdin”), Gabrielle Ruiz (“Crazy Ex-Girlfriend”), Haley Reinhart (“American Idol”), and Jillian Rose Reed (“Awkward”) were also in attendance Friday night alongside “Waitress” veterans Eddie Jemison, who played “Ogie” in Adrienne Shelly’s 2007 film, and Dakin Matthews, who played “Joe” in the original Broadway cast of the show.
“Waitress” is playing Aug. 2-26 at the Pantages Theatre.