(Photos: Caitlin McNaney, Joan Marcus & Emilio Madrid-Kuser)
In the corporate world, employees leaving a job are often asked to sit through an exit interview with HR about their time at the company. That concept doesn’t exist for Broadway performers, but we love checking in with stars as they finish up a successful run. Jessie Mueller is serving up quirky comedy with a giant helping of pathos in the central role of Jenna, a pregnant woman dealing with an abusive husband and holding down a job as a diner server/pie-maker extraordinaire, in Waitress. The Tony winner will play her last performance in the Sara Bareilles-penned musical on March 26, and the composer herself will step into the role on March 31. As her Tony-nommed turn in the show winds toward its final bow, we asked Mueller to look back on her time in the successful show, whether she was serving up Mermaid Marshmallow Pie, offering alternate pronunciations of her name or just generally being her perfect self. Here, Mueller tells us what she learned, what she'll miss and what Bareilles will need in order to perform this powerhouse role eight times a week.
How did you feel when you first got this job?
I was so excited. I fell in love with Sara's music the first time I heard it. I felt emotionally attached right away.
How do you feel now that you're leaving?
It’s so layered! It is bittersweet to leave something you helped create and the folks you created it with. I think that will be the hardest part. This is an extraordinary group that has put their heart and soul into this thing. And I mean every crew member, dresser and musician—across the board.
What are three words you would use to describe your experience?
Whoa, three?! Challenging, rewarding, soul-searching
What was the easiest thing about this job?
Knowing I wanted to do it.
What was the hardest thing?
Remembering why I wanted to do it when the going got tough.
What was the highlight of your time at this job?
Meeting and bonding with incredible people.
What skills do you think are required for future job applicants?
What advice would you give to future employees in your job position?
Take care of yourself and this beautiful company.
How do you think you've grown?
How long you got???
Why are you leaving?
I am proud of the time and quality of work I've put in, and now it is time to rest!
What will you miss the most?
Those moments onstage when you realize what you and your compatriots are doing matters. Someone in that room needs to hear that story, someone needs to escape or heal or learn or breathe, and remember we're all in this together. It's palpable. It's magic, and when it happens it's the coolest thing. It's spiritual. I have been blessed to feel that rush many times with this exceptional story. And I am so grateful to one and all that have helped make that happen.