The musical “Waitress” has served up a slice of charm to audiences around the world since its 2015 debut. Sara Bareilles’ infectious adaptation of the late Adrienne Shelly’s beloved film follows Jenna, a small-town hashslinger who dreams of a more fulfilling life and bakes her ambitions into carefully crafted pies. It also features a host of colorful supporting characters, including Dawn, Jenna’s colleague, and Dawn’s dopey but lovable admirer, Ogie. Out actor Brian Lundy has put his stamp on that part for more than two years, returning to the national tour after the pandemic’s imposed hiatus.
Prior to the tour’s return engagement at the Kimmel Cultural Campus, PGN spoke with Lundy about the show’s enduring appeal, the benefits and challenges of touring life and, of course, pie! Some responses have been condensed and lightly edited.
“Waitress” has been so popular and crowd-pleasing for a long time. What is it about the show that you think connects with audiences?
I think the biggest thing about “Waitress” that has given it such a beautiful, long life is the way that it can connect with so many different people on so many different levels. The greatest way it does that is through its story of community, and how the power of community can change peoples’ lives to empower them and take command over their own lives. At its heart, the musical is Jenna’s story of finding her own joy, but the characters all utilize each other to find the light in their lives. I think that’s what allows the audience to find the light in their own lives as they laugh through the show and move through all the beautiful emotions it presents.
Do you feel that you relate to Ogie?
Definitely. For me, there is the lovable weirdo who luckily wins over the audience and wins over his love interest, Dawn. I think there’s also some Dawn in me too, which makes them the perfect couple. It makes it easy for me to find the love in that relationship. I definitely connect with Dawn and Ogie in their adorable weirdness – or particularness, some might say.
Does playing the comic relief come naturally to you?
It is the box I’ve been thrown into for a while, and you learn to love it. You should never complain when you’re the person who shows up and gets the audience to laugh a bit. Especially considering the world we’re in now, it’s nice to offer some laughter.
You’ve been on the tour for over two years, since before the pandemic started. What has the experience been like, then and now?
It’s definitely more challenging now. There’s a lot of heavy protocols that we follow now that are difficult, but it feels worth it. I spent the whole year-and-a-half we were stuck at home waiting to get back to this show and telling this story. Every time that we are able to take a bow, knowing that we’ve made it through another performance and we’re closer to moving out of this, is really powerful.
Do you have a favorite city that you’ve visited in your touring travels? I imagine that being able to tour across the country exposes you to a lot of different communities that you might not have been familiar with.
Funny enough, a lot of the small towns that we’ve been through have had the biggest impact. We keep going back to Eau Claire, Wis., which we never would have expected to be a great city for musical theater. We also toured through Canada on the first leg pre-Covid, and we loved our time there. We had almost a month going to different cities in Canada, and that was a really special experience. This will be my first time performing in Philadelphia – my Philly debut – and I’m very excited.
Lastly, I have to ask: What’s your favorite kind of pie?
It’s an apple crumble every time!
The national tour of “Waitress” performs at the Academy of Music from March 29 through April 3 as part of the Kimmel Cultural Campus’ Broadway series. For tickets and information, including Covid-19 and masking protocols, visit https://www.kimmelculturalcampus.org/.