Final Bow: Waitress's Unsung Hero Stephanie Torns Shares a Recipe for Broadway Endurance
Torns looks back on her nearly four-year run in Sara Bareilles's debut musical.
Of all the shows that opened in the 2016 Broadway season, only two are still standing: A little record-breaking phenomenon called Hamilton, and Waitress, Sara Bareilles's debut musical based on Adrienne Shelly's 2007 cinematic gem. Many Jennas have come in gone in the ensuing four years (including Bareilles herself), but when Waitress plays its final performance on January 5, 2020, Stephanie Torns will have stuck with the show from first preview all the way to closing curtain.
Torns opened the show as an ensemble member and understudy for both Jenna and Dawn, and has since played long stretches as the title pie expert, holding the fort as Waitress's most reliable anchor. It's been a monumental four years in Torns's career, and she took a few moments to reflect on the bittersweet ending that's just around the corner.
1. What is your favorite line that you get to say or sing (in any of the roles you've played)?
You started with the hardest question imaginable. I would have to say the entire "Soft Place to Land" scene/song is my favorite moment of the show to perform when I am Jenna. I just love it.
2. What is your cast's best inside joke?
We have so many. Inside jokes are hard to explain, but one of my favorite moments was when NaTasha Yvette Williams (Becky) exited the stage after "Everything Changes" while the rest of the cast was frozen and not supposed to move. We all had a good laugh about that for a long time.
3. What was the worst technical difficulty you experienced during the run, and how was it handled?
The worst one we had was during our previews. We had to stop the show and the pie scrim had to come down. So while we are all waiting to know what to do next we hear the audience start yelling and going crazy. Cut to Sara Bareilles going onstage and singing "Part of Your World" to keep everyone entertained.
4. What is the most interesting present you received at the stage door?
I have to say, in the past almost four years on Broadway with the show I have received some of the most thoughtful/beautiful gifts from our amazing fans. One was a big mason jar that was filled with small notes from different fans from all over. They all got together to do that thoughtful gift for me.
5. Who is the coolest person to come see the show?
I would have to say Hillary Clinton and Carole King, two women that I think so highly of. I will say though that the people who have come into our actual cast have been the coolest people! I mean Jason Mraz, Joey McIntyre, and the one and only Al Roker!
6. You've had the chance to perform as both Jenna and Dawn. What are your favorite aspects of performing each of those roles?
I love both these roles so very much. They taught me so much about myself. Dawn's innocence and pure heart — also to represent Adrienne Shelley in a small way meant so much to me. My girl Jenna...where do I begin? Her story I hold so very dear to my heart. She has taught me about my own strength in times of challenge and heartbreak. I have grown as a person while standing in her shoes. I learned that I am much stronger than I even imagined I could be — emotionally and physically.
7. What was your most harrowing understudy experience during your time with Waitress?
Hands down the time I had to go on in Act 2 for our pie queen, Sara Bareilles. As an understudy it is always difficult to step into some big shoes and win over an audience, but mid-show having to do that was horrifying. I remember being so unbelievably nervous even though at this point I have gone on so many times. I think I did OK, since no one threw any tomatoes at me. Ha!
8. What is the best thing you've learned from Sara Bareilles?
The wonder that is Sara Bareilles. I could write a long novel on this woman. She has taught me what kindness and selflessness truly look like. She opens her heart fully to you and makes you feel seen and, above all, valued. She is one of the busiest people ever and she still finds time to check in and make sure things are well. I just adore her so very much and I am extremely grateful to have been a part of her show.....now write another one, OK?
9. What are the rewards and challenges of being with a show for so long?
The challenges are real. We legit do shows eight times a week with only one day off. We miss holidays, birthdays, family events, etc. But we get to do what we love, so that is the tradeoff. We also change our clothes and put our wigs on at the same time every day, so it is a bit like Groundhog Day.
The rewards though! This show has such a beautiful message and story, and to tell it each night to a different audience is incredible. The fans that write to say how much our show means to them and how much it changed them, and even better, the strength it has given some people to leave unhealthy relationships. That is why we do what we do. We are storytellers that get to change people's lives by letting them see themselves in a character onstage or helping them escape whatever life has thrown at them. It is pretty amazing!
10. If you could keep any Waitress costume or prop as a memento, which would it be and why?
Hmmmm...I would say my ensemble wig, so I can walk around town like Belle in Beauty and the Beast. As for a prop, it would be the Mermaid Marshmallow Pie or an apron. I think they remind me of our show the most. I really wanted to say the gyno table just for laughs!
These have been at my station for years. THANK YOU! Grateful for these forever gifts. Woof...January 5th...my heart strings! pic.twitter.com/4lTU0jew9i— Stephanie Torns (@StephanieTorns) November 17, 2019