Hit musical ‘Waitress’ to bring slice of Broadway to Hancher

Complete with the smell of baking pies, Hancher Auditorium will present the hit musical this weekend.

Parker Jones, Arts Reporter

Hundreds of viewers of Waitress at Hancher Auditorium this weekend will be greeted by the warm smell of baking pies, and some may even leave the theater with a fresh pie.

The hit Broadway musical is currently on tour across the country, and will stop in Iowa City on Oct. 22 and 23. 

Based on the film of the same name, Waitress first debuted on Broadway in 2016, with music and lyrics written by Sara Bareilles and Jessie Nelson. It tells the story of expert pie baker and waitress Jenna Hunterson, who deals with an abusive husband, an accidental pregnancy, and other life-changing events while working at a small-town Southern diner. 

The musical recently re-opened on Broadway for its second run, with Bareilles reprising her role as Jenna for the remainder of its 2021 season.

Executive Director of Hancher Chuck Swanson said the Waitress production requires every facility hosting the musical to provide two ovens to emit the smell of baking pie for the audience experience.

 Hancher will also work with University of Iowa Catering to provide fresh pies for purchase at the show, he said.

“We want to make sure everybody comes hungry for dessert because we usually don’t have pies,” Swanson said. 

Actress Gabriella Marzetta, who plays Jenna’s shy, quirky, and close friend Dawn in the 2021 Waitress tour, has several family members in Iowa City. She said she looks forward to performing in another college town, especially at Hancher. 

“I do love the college vibe,” Marzetta said. “The facilities are always really incredible, and the community that comes out – it’s really cool that they share their space with us.”  

The musical has made stops in other college towns like Bloomington, Indiana, and Springfield, Ohio, so far on its 2021 tour. 

Hancher has brought Broadway performances to the UI for decades, including several iterations of Les Misérables throughout the years, as well as more recent productions like The Book of Mormon. Swanson said that larger-scale productions often require a lot more setup for Hancher’s staff, but that the payoff is worth it because they attract enthusiastic audiences.  

Swanson also noted that, because Waitress recently opened again on Broadway, Hancher is lucky to have it visit on tour. The facility is ready to open for bigger performances after over a year of many virtual productions, he said. 

I think after the past 18 months, people are ready for this,” Swanson said. “[Waitress is] bringing that big-city sort of feel to the university, and really takes people to another place to forget about their worries and immerse themselves in a Broadway show.”