HER NEW BOOK, ALBUM,
AND BROADWAY MUSICAL
Sara Bareilles is conquering the entertainment industry one medium at a time.Since the 2013 release of her Grammy Award nominated album, The Blessed Unrest, the singer/songwriter has been hard at work on not just a new record, but also a book and a Broadway musical. And you thought you had a busy year.
Published last month by Simon & Schuster, Bareilles’ debut book, Sounds Like Me: My Life (so far) in Song, is an autobiographical collection of essays woven together by various pivotal songs in her repertoire. Filled with candor, plenty of humor, and soul-searching, the book chronicles defining chapters in her life – such as her first earth-shattering breakup, her time abroad living in Italy, and the struggles of both finding inspiration and staying authentic to her artistic identity when crafting her music.
In addition to shedding light on the genesis of songs such as “Gravity” and “Love Song,” Bareilles pulls back the curtain on some of the personal obstacles she’s had to overcome. For instance, the poignant chapter, “Beautiful Girl,” finds Bareilles writing an array of letters to her younger self to guide her through the body image issues she’s been facing since childhood. While it’s clear that nobody gave her the prolific advice she’s now giving her former self, these moving letters illustrate just how far she’s come, allowing her to revisit (and sometimes still combat) these self-sabotaging feelings with a fresh perspective. The way in which she describes those inner demons and what her journey has taught her about how to face them is nothing short of courageous and inspirational.
Another standout essay is “She Used To Be Mine,” in which Bareilles discusses how she became involved with writing a musical, how that creative process differed from what she was used to, and how she tackled the new and exciting challenges that presented. She reflects on her lifelong affinity for musical theater and how shows like The Sound of Music, Les Misérables, West Side Story, Little Shop of Horrors and The Mystery of Edwin Drood shaped her songwriting style long before she ever set out to create her own musical.
“I developed a way of listening to music because of those shows, and because of that, I learned a particular way of writing that would show up down the line,” Bareilles writes. “The focus was acutely on the storytelling, bringing the audience along on a character’s journey, sharing their emotional evolution, all delivered with some unforgettable melodies. I experienced the power of deepening a dramatic moment with a song”
She continues, “I also learned that I was not a true soprano, no matter how hard I clenched my butt cheeks. I tried to sing the part of Christine in The Phantom of the Opera dozens of times, melodramatically staring myself down in my nightgown in my bedroom mirror, and tragically falling short of the high E she sings at the end of the title song until I actually gave myself a headache one time and had to sit down for a few minutes. In spite of my injuries, the seeds were sown deep and true, and my love for the genre has never faded.”
That love and classic influence is very much apparent in the music and lyrics of Waitress. Based on the 2007 indie film of the same name, the show features some of the strongest work of Bareilles’ vast career thus far. Masterfully blending contemporary musical theater with the signature piano-pop sound that she’s known for, Bareilles has composed an evocative, original, and unforgettable score.
In advance of its inaugural Broadway bow at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre on March 25, 2016, Waitress played an acclaimed and completely sold-out limited trial run at the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, Massachusetts this past summer.
Like this year’s Tony Award Best Musical winner, Fun Home, Waitress comes from an all-female creative team. Directed by Tony Award winner Diane Paulus (Pippin; Hair) and starring the immeasurably talented Tony Award winning actress Jessie Mueller (Beautiful: The Carole King Musical), the show tells the story of Jenna, an unhappily married waitress in the South who learns that she’s pregnant. Now that she’ll be responsible for two lives instead of just her own, Jenna must decide if she has what it takes to start a new life for her and her child or if she will continue meekly accepting the bleak fate she’s grown to know. And throughout, she consistently bakes incredible new pies as a form of self-expression.
While putting Waitress together, Bareilles became so enamored with the project that before the inevitable cast recording hits shelves next year, she’ll be releasing a concept album of songs from the show. In stores this Friday, What’s Inside: Songs from Waitress gives fans a taste of what they can expect from the musical when it makes its eagerly awaited arrival on the Great White Way.
In a press statement about the album, Bareilles explained, “I fell more deeply in love with the writing of the musical Waitress than I had ever imagined. It proved impossible for me to imagine handing over the songs to the show before selfishly finding a way to sing them myself. This is a deliciously self-indulgent project and I’m sorry, I’m not sorry.”
Yet while the record is comprised entirely of selections from Waitress, there are several songs that Bareilles deliberately did not include on the track list. This way, there would still be some surprises left for audience members when the show opens (looking at you, “Take It From An Old Man”). And instead of recording these songs in the exact style that they are performed on stage, her approach was to treat these as she would any other songs she’s written. Produced by Neal Avron (who collaborated with Bareilles on her second album, Kaleidoscope Heart), the tracks on the album act more as pop interpretations of what the show has to offer, rather than as a direct reflection of how they’ll be presented in the musical.
The album’s lead single, “She Used To Be Mine,” is a gorgeous power ballad that Jenna sings during a monumental turning point. She’s at a crossroads and yearns to reconnect with the strong, free-spirited woman she used to be. She remembers what it was like to learn and grow from mistakes instead of be bogged down by them. Through the song, she reignites the flame inside of herself to grant her the courage to pick one of the paths she sees before her. It’s an empowering track that not only paints a detailed portrait of one of the musical’s central conflicts, but it’s also the type of instant classic that will make it a staple in all of Bareilles’ future concert set lists alongside “Love Song” and “Brave.”
Other highlights on the album include “When He Sees Me,” a quirky song with big and brassy vocals that one of Jenna’s two closest friends sings about unearthing the confidence to go on her first real date. “Door Number Three” is a bouncy and hopeful ode to the possibilities of what can happen when one takes unexpected risks. “Bad Idea,” one of the two songs featuring Jason Mraz, is a comical and sexually charged duet about not being able to resist someone despite the best logic advising against it. And “Lulu’s Pie Song” is a powerful lullaby that acts as the show’s finale and a tribute to Jenna’s child.
A NEW BROADWAY MUSICAL BAKED FROM THE HEART
Fresh from a sold-out run at Boston’s American Repertory Theater, Waitress makes its highly anticipated Broadway premiere. Funny, uplifting and surprisingly poignant, this irresistible slice of life features original music and lyrics by five-time Grammy® nominee Sara Bareilles (“Brave,” “Love Song”), a book by acclaimed screenwriter Jessie Nelson (I Am Sam) and direction by Tony Award® winner Diane Paulus (Pippin, Finding Neverland).
Tony winner Jessie Mueller (Beautiful) is Jenna, a waitress and expert pie maker stuck in a small town and a loveless marriage. Faced with an unexpected pregnancy, Jenna fears she may have to abandon the dream of opening her own pie shop forever… until a baking contest in a nearby county and the town’s handsome new doctor offer her a tempting recipe for happiness. Supported by her quirky crew of fellow waitresses and loyal customers, Jenna summons the secret ingredient she’s been missing all along – courage.
The Broadway cast includes Eric Anderson, Christopher Fitzgerald, Drew Gehling, Kimiko Glenn, Dakin Matthews, Keala Settle, with ensemble members Charity Angél Dawson, Jeremy Morse and Stephanie Torns. Inspired by Adrienne Shelly’s beloved film, Waitress is an empowering celebration of friendship, motherhood and finding the strength to pursue even the wildest dreams. Order up!
Brooks Atkinson Theatre
256 W. 47th Street
New York, NY 10036
Corey Mach, a cast member of the A.R.T. production, exclusively told PopBytes that “working with Sara on Waitress was a dream. She was constantly involved from day one, adding new orchestrations, arrangements, and even songs daily. She is a remarkable human and a brilliant songwriter.”
Mach also happens to be the founder of Broadway Sings, a revered concert series that spotlights a pop artist and creates brand new arrangements of their song catalog in the vein of musical theater. Performed by a mixed troupe of up-and-coming and well-established Broadway stars, these concerts are backed by a full jazz band and give a unique twist to the popular music they perform. Artists that have been featured include Adele, Michael Jackson, Beyoncé, Pink, Amy Winehouse, and Justin Timberlake, with Billy Joel being the next up on the roster. So naturally – and just in time for Friday’s release of What’s Inside – Broadway Sings dedicated their latest concert to Bareilles earlier this week.
“Sara’s music is inherently theatrical,” Mach told us. “I think a huge reason the Broadway community is so open to welcoming her is because they are genuinely intrigued by the thought of her lyrics being sung by actors. Her songs tell beautiful stories, and so do great musicals; it’s a perfect combination. That’s a huge reason why I chose to honor Sara for my ninth concert in the series.”
True to promise, the concert featured exciting renditions of Bareilles’ greatest hits and deeper album cuts. These included Jessica Keenan Wynn’s show stopping, sultry big band take on “King of Anything”, the Louis Armstrong-meets-Michael Bublé swagger of Ben Thompson’s “Little Black Dress,” Ben Platt’s soulful “Many The Miles,” and Natalie Weiss’ belting master class on “Stay.” Comprised of a sold-out crowd that would roar with applause and chant “Get It Girl!” anytime a performer reached a key change, the Broadway Sings event showcased just how much Bareilles’ work is both complimented and has already been embraced by the vibrant theater community. Not a bad welcome.
So now that Bareilles is a New York Times bestselling author, has her fifth full studio album under her belt, and is garnering early buzz for a Tony nomination, does she plan to appear on a Broadway stage herself?
“I certainly have dreams of being on a Broadway stage someday, if they’ll have me. I think I want to stay really open to whatever possibilities present themselves. My role in this show as composer and being behind the scenes has been so delicious in such a surprising way,” Bareilles said to Glamour. “I thought I would have a much harder time relinquishing the role to someone else because I fell in love with our lead character so much. I love this woman, Jenna. She resonates with me, and I really identify with her,”
“But then getting to work with someone like Jessie Mueller and watching her and how masterful she is at creating a character, I feel like I have a lot to learn before I would be ready to take on something like this. But again, never say never—I certainly have those dreams, and I hope that it happens at some point, whether it’s in this show or something else. I hope I get to see those stage lights at some point,” she concluded.
With a new album, book, and musical, it’s clear that Bareilles has ripped a page from Jenna’s recipe book by baking all of these passion projects to perfection. We already can’t wait for whatever she serves next.