Last year, I saw Beautiful: The Carole King Musical and blogged about it. I realized that I have a tendency to obsessively research a show before I see it, and considered what it’d be like to discover a show as I experienced it, to be surprised by a show.
On my epic east coast road trip, I had the opportunity to do just that. After we decided to swing through Boston on our trip home, I realized that Waitress the musical would be playing previews at the American Repertory Theatre in Cambridge.
Because this is an early out-of-town preview before the show heads to Broadway next spring, there isn’t a lot out there to obsessively pour over. In fact, we were only the seventh audience ever to see it. I only knew a few things about Waitress:
- It’s based on the 2007 movie.
- The creative team is bananas. Crazy good. It includes a score written by Sara Bareillis – her first foray into musical theatre writing.
- It stars Jessie Mueller, who is probably my favourite stage actress (alright, favourite actress) on the planet.
- One full song that Sara sang a few weeks ago, and I got chills each time I listened to it.
On top of that, I went in knowing I’d have to live off of my memories of this show. A cast recording may never be made, and if it is made, it won’t be for close to another year. After it closes at A.R.T. in September, it’ll be about six months before it transfers to Broadway and a few months before the buzz picks up again.
So unlike any other show I’ve seen, I wouldn’t be able to relive it through YouTube videos or a cast recording, at least not for a very long time. Saturday, August 8 was it.
I sat in my seat determined to be in the moment. To discover the show as it happened. I didn’t try to remember the lines, and couldn’t sing along. I didn’t think of who else would love this and what they might think as they watched it. I didn’t try to figure out how the quick change happened so fast or what the next scene might be.
I just sat and discovered the musical as I watched it. Not knowing what to expect made it easier to take in the moment. I wasn’t trying to reconcile what I already knew to what I was experiencing. I just experienced.
I laughed at each hilarious scene. I got teary during the ballads. I was surprised. I sat and watched masterful actors perform a beautiful show.
And this show is oh so special. It was heartbreaking and painful and cathartic, punctured with laugh out loud and bittersweet moments. It ebbed and flowed beautifully. It made you look at situations in a different way. It was messy and complicated and tender. It was real.
Maybe there’s something to all of this. To knowing you’d have to rely on your own memories of the moment instead of the internet to tell you your memories. To walking in to a new experience and letting it unfold before you without expectation. Maybe that’s the best way.
Gushing side note: there aren’t enough adjectives to describe just how good Jessie Mueller is. I adore her and had experienced her crazy talent in Beautiful, and she still surprised me in this show. Raw, vulnerable with impeccable comedic timing. And her voice is out of this world. She absolutely deserves very accolade she’s received…and there’s been a lot. Okay, enough gushing.
Oh and I got to meet Headmaster Charleston from Gilmore Girls, who was also fabulous in this show.