While Desi Oakley has already shown off her musical chops in a slew of Broadway productions like "Wicked" and "Les Misérables" over the years, there's something special about her latest role as Jenna Hunterson in the national tour of "Waitress."
The actress and singer-songwriter stars as the fan-favorite pie maker in the Tony Award-nominated musical, which kicked off its run at the Boston Opera House this week. Since the production originally debuted at Cambridge's American Repertory Theatre in 2015 before making the move to Broadway, Oakley couldn't be more excited to bring "Waitress" back to the Bay State.
"Honestly, it’s a dream come true," Oakley says. "Especially coming to Boston where the heart of the story was born."
Based on the Keri Russell-starring 2007 indie flick of the same name, "Waitress" tells the story of Jenna, a young woman who works in a small town diner and is trapped in a relationship with her abusive husband. Things get complicated when Jenna gets pregnant and ends up falling in love with her gynecologist. In order to cope with her situation, Jenna enters a pie contest, in hopes that the grand prize is her ticket out.
Although the musical numbers and smells of freshly baked desserts makes for an entertaining night out at the theater, Oakley believes that fans have gravitated towards the production because of its extremely relatable protagonist.
"I call her the every woman," Oakley says. "No one has written a book about her. Her skin isn’t green. She’s really relatable. She’s sort of just like all of us."
The actress says that preparing for "Waitress" was just as much fun as performing it on stage. Like Jenna, Oakley's mother taught her how to bake pies, and even flew all the way out to New York in order to get her ready for the role using her great-grandmother's tart cherry pie recipe.
"My mother got on a plane and threw a rolling pin in her suitcase and flew to New York City," Oakley says. "She taught me how to bake a pie in my studio apartment."
"I’ve never made a pie before," she adds. "I thought it was really special. It was her idea."
Overall, Oakley has loved every minute of her "Waitress" experience and is proud of the fact that the production features an all-female creative team, including Sara Bareilles. The Grammy winner, who's currently playing Jenna on Broadway, wrote the music and lyrics for the show.
"They didn’t necessarily go out saying, ‘Let’s make this an all female cast,’ they just chose the best people for the job and it happened to be all women," Oakley says. "I think that idea is so powerful."
If you go:
Through March 4, Boston Opera House, 539 Washington St., Boston, $44+, broadwayinboston.com