Thoughts on Jessie Mueller Leaving “Waitress”

On March 26th, following a run of around a year on Broadway (not including workshops and an out of town run), Tony Award-winning actress Jessie Mueller ends her turn as Jenna Hunterson in the new Broadway musical Waitress.

I have been a huge fan of the show since its opening, listening to the cast recording and performing its songs as frequently as I can. A large part of this captivation is due to the show’s cast, specifically its lead actress. Like any Broadway show, casting is extremely important in ensuring the show’s success. In the case of Jessie Mueller in Waitress, this casting was absolutely perfect. Jenna is a complicated and hurt woman living under the thumb of an abusive husband, dreaming of a way out for herself and for her unborn child, and Jessie’s spellbinding performance truly brings her story to life.

Upon listening to the music of Waitress and seeing the show, it is clear that the story presented through this performance is just as spellbinding as the performance of its lead actress. Throughout the course of the show main character Jenna changes drastically—from a beaten down, broken woman, to a confident new mother, willing to do anything to ensure a better life for herself and her daughter. This transformation is inspiring and important, as through the telling of this story the audience witnesses a perspective that they may not experience very often—one of an underprivileged, mistreated woman. So often the media is flooded with stories written by men, featuring the stories of men, and starring men, yet with Waitress, the opposite is true.

Women make up the main cast of the show, supporting and encouraging each other through their lives and goals. Supportive female friendships are also lacking in popular media, yet in Waitress they are abundant, showing the positive influence that women can have on one another in all situations, positive or negative. In these relationships as well as the rest of the story, the skills of the actresses involved are of paramount importance, as is the bond between these women onstage and off. Again the skills of Mueller and the rest of Waitress’s cast are paramount to the effective telling of these stories, and they do so skillfully and with heart.

While Waitress is losing its leading lady, no matter who plays Jenna Hunterson, its story will still be moving. Despite this, however, Jessie Mueller has presented the role in this musical to the public with grace and finesse, and no one could have been a better choice to do so. So, Jessie, thank you for gifting us with your beautiful performance of this important story, and for laying the groundwork all of the role’s future inhabitants. Your talent and ability to portray even the most vulnerable and challenging characters are exceptional—all actresses on the stage and off can, and should, look to your example for guidance on how to sensitively and accurately portray such a role.

Happy trails, Jessie. We all look forward to what you’ll be serving up next.

 

Image Credit: Featured Image, 1, 2