Waitress Role is “Dream Come True” for Chelsea Halfpenny as Hit Musical Visits Wales Millennium Centre

London’s smash hit musical comedy Waitress comes to Wales Millennium Centre’s Donald Gordon Theatre from 30 May as part of it’s UK tour.

Sara Bareilles’ musical follows Jenna, a waitress and expert pie-maker who dreams of some happiness in her life. When a hot new doctor arrives in town, life gets complicated. With the support of her workmates Becky and Dawn, Jenna overcomes the challenges she faces and finds that laughter, love and friendship can provide the perfect recipe for happiness.

Waitress stars Chelsea Halfpenny as Jenna. Chelsea has previously starred in the stage musical 9 to 5 as well as TV roles in BBC’s Casualty and ITV’s Emmerdale. Here, she discusses all things Waitress.

Chelsea Halfpenny plays Jenna in Waitress which runs at runs at Wales Millennium Centre from 30 May – 4 June 2022

We know you well from your time on Emmerdale and Casualty, what made you want to move into theatre work as well? Are there any big differences between the two styles of work?

It wasn’t a conscious move into musical theatre, I was lucky enough to be seen for a couple of musicals and I’ve always sung. I had been for a few auditions here and there which didn’t go that well and then I just happened to get the audition for 9 to 5 The Musical and the stars sort of aligned and it went my way. I ended up doing that show from 2019 until March 2020 and once that door was open to me in this industry, I was able to be seen for more musical theatre. The biggest difference between the two is the hours! You go to bed late and you get up late as we work mainly in the evening. It’s also physically a lot more demanding – if you have a cold or your voice isn’t quite there because you’re run down you do have to take sick days which when you’re doing television doesn’t happen so much. There’s also the thrill of having a live audience and getting that instant feedback which is amazing.

In terms of keeping up the stamina, you really do have to look after yourself and think about what you’re eating and how much you’re chatting. I don’t really drink alcohol when I’m doing theatre because it makes me very talkative and talking a bit louder which isn’t super helpful! You just must be conscious of what you’re putting in your body and where you are expending your energy to make sure you can deliver a great performance every night.

Waitress is a show that is so loved by fans, were you a fan of the show prior to joining it?

I was a huge fan; a geeky fan of the show and I am not ashamed to say that at all. I really loved it, so now getting to be part of it is a total dream come true!

Can you explain a little about the story, and the journey your character, Jenna, goes on?

The story is about Jenna who is an expert pie baker and works in a diner. She has two great friends, Becky, and Dawn, who work there with her. We discover quite quickly that she is quite unhappy in her marriage, and she bakes all her emotions into her pies, that is how she expresses herself. Then a new Doctor comes to town, and he changes her perspective on things. The story unfolds from there! It’s all about love and finding love in the places that you might not expect to.

The music in the show has taken on a life of its own, with some numbers quickly becoming firm favourites for people. Why do you think this is, and do you have a particular favourite number to watch or perform?

I think the main reason is that Sara Bareilles seems to write literally from her heart. She writes things that are so specific but at the same time you can take what you want from it as well. The songs tell the exact story of Waitress beautifully, but also you can relate everything that she has written to your own life for loads of different reasons. Even the funny songs have heartfelt serious moments to them, and layers to them that you can discover each time you listen to the songs. They take on another life with each listen.

I know that She Used To Be Mine is such a firm favourite for people, and it gets sung a lot. I can see why; the lyrics are just so heart wrenching and the music is beautiful. I also love Dawn’s song When He Sees Me, that’s one that seems funny but it’s emotional.

Wendy Mae Brown as ‘Becky’, Chelsea Halfpenny as ‘Jenna’ and Evelyn Hoskins as ‘Dawn’ in the hit musical, Waitress. Credit: Johan Persson

What’s it like touring the UK with a show, does it differ to your experience of performing in the West End?

The logistics are a bit different, with packing up your bag and your dressing room every week and in a way, it goes by so quickly as you’re so busy. It’s lovely to have a different audience each week in every town and city we visit as everywhere has its own vibe. We can feel the emotions of the audience in different parts of the show.

Wendy Mae Brown as ‘Becky’, Chelsea Halfpenny as ‘Jenna’ and Evelyn Hoskins as ‘Dawn’ in the hit musical, Waitress. Credit: Johan Persson.

And finally, is there a piece of advice you have received or that you would pass on to anyone hoping to go into performing in some way?

This is easier said than done, but always believe in yourself and give yourself a goal. It’s easy to take on any negative feedback and dwell on it, but just remember that it’s someone else’s opinion and to keep working at your dreams!

  • Please note: Waitress deals with some adult content and themes so discretion is advised for parents bringing children under age 13.

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