The singer, who officially took his first bow on Nov. 3, tells ET that eight performances a week onstage at the Brooks Atkinson Theater in New York City is “less grueling” than a typical touring schedule. “I am not leaving town or changing venues. I am not onstage for three hours singing 25 songs. Broadway, in a sense, is easier, at least currently in the role that I’m in.”
Based on the 2007 film starring Keri Russell, Waitress tells the story of Jenna Hunterson, currently played by Betsy Wolfe, a pregnant pie maker in an unhappy marriage who falls in love with her married gynecologist, Dr. Pomatter. “Suddenly this patient comes along who disarms him and has him step out of his comfort zone; a boring marriage,” the two-time Grammy Award-winning singer songwriter explains of the role. “The trickiest part is to basically do Groundhog Day [and] fall in love with Jenna every day, or believe you are hearing those words for the very first time. So far, it’s a rush to try and do that. I love that I get to still be an entertainer to my highest level, but it’s not about me.”
For the record, Mraz says he didn’t visit his local OB GYN to prep for the role, even though the doctor’s office was right next to his dentist. “Thankfully, Wikipedia has enough information that brings one up to speed on obstetrics,” he says.
Mraz, who had experience doing plays like Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat in high school, nearly “pooped his pants” when he was offered the part during a casual email exchange with the musical’s composer-lyricist, Sara Bareilles. “I am wondering on behalf of our dear ‘Waitress’ if you’d ever have any interest in doing a short stint as Dr. Pomatter,” the note read. “It was more of a side conversation,” Mraz, explains of the email. “It was almost like a second thought -- it was so cute.”
The first person Mraz called was his mother (who said being on Broadway would “look good on his resume”) to get advice from her on whether to accept such an exciting opportunity. “I was more nervous answering that email than I have been about the rest of this process. I had to either say yes and go all in or say no and never know what this is going to be like. I was terribly nervous, because what if I am not right for the part? Or what if I’m a failure?” Mraz slept on the idea and accepted the job the next day.
“When I emailed him, I was sure he was going to say no because I figured he probably was too busy to be in a Broadway show,” Bareilles admits. “Miraculously, it worked out. He’s worked super hard. He is an amazing company member.”
Bareilles was there on Mraz’s first day of rehearsal to make sure he was comfortable with the songs, which he was already familiar with. The two worked together in 2015, recording some of the Tony-nominated songs for Bareilles’ album What’s Inside: Songs From Waitress. At the time, Bareilles had no idea that’d she’d be asking Mraz to step into the show two years later.
Looking ahead to 2018, Mraz is expecting to release a new single and album and go on tour once he’s wrapped his run on Broadway. He also has a new song coming out in the Owen Wilson and Ed Helms film Father Figures, which is in theaters on Dec. 22.
While returning to music is next on his list, coming back to Broadway isn’t out of the question. Mraz says if producers want him to step back into the part in New York or Los Angeles, he’d do it. As for a dream role? He’s a big fan of TheBook of Mormon and the character of Elder Price. “If my phone rings, I’ll answer it, but I am not going to pursue it.”