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Waitress

Charity Angél Dawson Comes Full Circle in the Tony-Nominated Musical

Colette Greenstein
Colette Greenstein
Colette Greenstein has been a contributing arts & entertainment writer for the Banner since 2009. VIEW BIO
Waitress
(l-r) Lenne Klingaman, Desi Oakley and Charity Angél Dawson in the National Tour of “Waitress.” (Photo: Joan Marcus)

I can’t wait to get to Boston. I’m back where it all began,” says Charity Angél Dawson of returning to the Hub in the national touring production of “Waitress.”

The actress originated the role of Nurse Norma when the musical premiered at the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge in 2015. She was a member of the ensemble at the A.R.T. and when it debuted on Broadway in 2016, eventually assuming the role of waitress Becky from Keala Settle (“The Greatest Showman”) during its Broadway run. The actress once again plays Becky in the national touring production, now playing at the Boston Opera House through March 4.

Author: Joan Marcus(l-r) Charity Angél Dawson, Desi Oakley and Lenne Klingaman in the National Tour of “Waitress.”

If you go

Tickets for “Waitress” can be purchased online at www.BroadwayInBoston.com; by calling Ticketmaster at 1-800-982-2787; or in person at the Boston Opera House Box Office, 539 Washington St., Monday through Friday, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The musical, nominated for four Tony Awards, is led by an all-female creative team, including Tony Award-winner Diane Paulus (“Pippin,” “Finding Neverland”), and six-time Grammy nominee Sara Bareilles (“Brave,” “Love Song”), who wrote the original music and lyrics. Inspired by Adrienne Shelly’s 2007 film, the musical tells the story of Jenna, a waitress and expert pie maker who unexpectedly becomes pregnant and dreams of a way out of her small town and unhappy marriage.

Dawson, who plays one of Jenna’s friends and a fellow waitress, has been singing her entire life. She recalls falling in love with musicals as a kid but didn’t know it was something that she could do until she performed in her first musical, “The Wiz,” in high school. “I’ve been hooked ever since,” she says. The actress graduated from the American Musical and Dramatic Academy and later appeared in the 2014 Broadway revival of “Side Show” as well as in “Dreamgirls,” “The Color Purple,” “West Side Story,” “Ain’t Misbehavin’” and, interestingly enough, “The Wiz.”

Dawson spoke with the Banner earlier this month about her experience being cast in “Waitress.”

You’ve gone from being in the ensemble to now playing Becky. What does that mean for you?

Charity Angél Dawson: It’s meant so much to me. It was kind of a whirlwind. Becky has been a part of me since A.R.T. because the first day of rehearsal when we did a read through, Keala was unable to be there, so I had to do Becky stuff and Nurse Norma stuff, and all of the ensemble stuff as well that was required of me. It’s kind of been from the beginning, she’s been a part of me. But being able to have the opportunity to take over the role on Broadway and then to originate it here on tour has been pretty wonderful.

In taking over the role from

Keala Settle, how did you make
it your own?

It was an interesting challenge because Keala is such a strong personality and such a vibrant talent, but I had to find my way to it; to find my way to this woman and understanding her and who she is. It was an exciting journey, and the creative team was very helpful in that and in encouraging me to not do what she did, but to make it my own.

The musical touches upon universal themes, such as hope, love and doubt. How would you describe what your character goes through?

I feel like this show is about finding your “happy” and finding your place of peace, where you can sit and look in the mirror and say ‘I like what I see.’ You can look around at your life and say, ‘I’m happy with what I see here and I’m at peace with it.’ I feel like that is Becky’s goal. She wants her friends to find that place and then she’s able to tap into that for herself too.

Has playing Becky changed you
in any way?

Yes, very much. I’ve always been kind of vocal and present with my friends but with Becky, she doesn’t give pats on their back. She doesn’t mince words. She says the truth in love. And it may not always be easy to hear, but I’ve kind of taken that on in my life too. If you love somebody you’ve got to break it down.

What has been one of the
most challenging aspects of
playing Becky?

There is no medium. She’s a full-bodied vibrant person. And there really is no phoning it in. Sometimes when I’m exhausted it’s like ‘OK, enough’ — however, she’s challenged me in a positive way to not ever do that.

What do you hope the audience
takes away from the musical?

I hope that they’re able to see themselves and walk away spurred on to finding peace in their life and doing whatever they need to do — pursuing a dream, or a relationship or whatever — to make their lives look like what they dream it to look like. Dreams are real. They do come true. And they come true for Jenna in this show through trials and tribulations and through hard stuff and interesting decisions, but she finds her way.

What has it been like working
with an all-female team?

It was really amazing. They have been really wonderful in crafting this piece and giving

the actors space and freedom

to discover, to be, and to learn and to grow and to develop this for ourselves in each cast, from the A.R.T to Broadway to tour.

It was pretty wonderful. I learned a lot.