You are here
Home > Arts > PREVIEW: <em>Waitress</em> at the Ordway

PREVIEW: Waitress at the Ordway

Gabriella Marzetta as Dawn and Brian Lundy as Ogie in the national tour of Waitress: The Musical, which opens tonight in St. Paul, MN. Photo by Jeremy Daniel.

The Ordway Center for the Performing Arts is ending its Broadway show season with a bake-off. Pie baking, to be precise – a central, musical note in the musical Waitress, which plays March 8-13 in Saint Paul, MN.

In this touring production, Gabriella Marzetta plays the role of Dawn. The musical is based upon the 2007 movie of the same name, with a book by Jessie Nelson, and music and lyrics by singer-songwriter Sara Bareilles (who has, herself, appeared from time to time in the show on Broadway). The movie script that started it all, however, was penned by actor-writer Adrienne Shelly, where she herself played the supporting role of Dawn, a fellow waitress working alongside Jenna, the waitress in the show/movie title. Dawn not only held her own in scenes with Jenna (played by Keri Russell in the movie), but often stole the scenes. Tragically, however, Shelly was murdered in 2006 – one year before the movie’s release.

In the touring production, Marzetta plays the role originated by Shelly on film. She spoke with the Arts Reader’s Bev Wolfe about her career and digging into the character of Dawn.

Originally from the Chicago area, Marzetta started her theatrical study at the Chicago Academy for the Arts High School. After completing high school, Marzetta attended Webster University but completed her education at the conservatory of Collaborative Arts Project 21 (known as CAP21) in New York City where she graduated in 2016. She began her career immediately doing summer stock and then worked with the Vital Theatre Company, a children’s theatre company based in New York City. Since 2017, she has appeared in several shows and tours.

Marzetta first became part of the current Broadway touring company of Waitress in September 2019. Just half a year later, in March 2020, performances were suddenly stopped due to the Covid outbreak. During this imposed hiatus from performing, Marzetta moved back to Chicago, rented an apartment for a year, and taught both voice lessons and acting. Despite the dark year, she took inspiration came from working with people who loved seeing professional theatre and even aspired to be part of it.

Fast forward to September 2021, when the tour resumed. Marzetta rejoined and things went smoothly until the Omicron COVID-19 spike in January 2022. Soon, the company was playing in Phoenix, Arizona, but several cast members were unable to appear because of illness. So many fell sick – including the actress playing the central character of Jenna, plus all her understudies – that they had to cancel a couple of performances and fly in replacements.

In many shows, side characters feel like that – providing motivations and encouragements, but not fully realized. The character of Dawn, however, feels something more. According to Marzetta, Adrienne Shelly had a special affinity for the Dawn character that she chose to embody, and whom Marzetta now brings to life. She wove elements of her own life into the narrative, too: in the musical, the story about Dawn’s 5-minute date is based on the screenwriter’s participating in a similar date situation…and meeting her future husband.

Dawn, according to Marzetta, has a “fear of rejection and losing control” that everyone can relate to. She (Dawn) is genuine in her moments, sometimes being innocent, lighthearted, and naïve. Despite being fearful about life, however, she is willing to take a chance and go forward.

What is the character’s best attribute? According to Marzetta, that is Dawn’s willingness to give others the benefit of the doubt. She even goes so far as to predict that Dawn and her husband Ogie will be “granola hippy people: with lots of children and incredibly happy.

Going to see Waitress? Look for Dawn’s solo song “When He Sees Me”, where the character expresses her fear of meeting new men. It’s also Marzetta’s favorite song from the musical, which she loved even before being cast as Dawn. Throw in a few more positive themes including following your dreams, sisterhood, and believing in yourself, and that’s a meal for the evening.

Waitress plays at the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts in St. Paul, MN from March 8-13, 2022.

Bev Wolfe