Interview by Christine Thompson
Brought to life by a groundbreaking all-female creative team, this irresistible new hit features original music and lyrics by 6-time Grammy® nominee Sara Bareilles (“Brave,” “Love Song”), a book by acclaimed screenwriter Jessie Nelson (I Am Sam), choreography by Lorin Latarro (Les Dangereuse Liasons, Waiting For Godot) and direction by Tony Award® winner Diane Paulus (Hair, Pippin, Finding Neverland).
Inspired by Adrienne Shelly’s beloved film, WAITRESS tells the story of Jenna – a waitress and expert pie maker, Jenna dreams of a way out of her small town and loveless marriage. A baking contest in a nearby county and the town’s new doctor may offer her a chance at a fresh start, while her fellow waitresses offer their own recipes for happiness. But Jenna must summon the strength and courage to rebuild her own life.
We had the opportunity to speak to Jeremy Morse, who made his Broadway debut as Ogie, a unique character who falls in love with a waitress named Dawn.
AMFM Magazine: How did you land the role of Ogie?
Jeremy Morse: It was the summer of 2015, and I got this audition at the American Repertory Theater in CAmbridge, Massachusetts.
I was incredibly excited because I knew Sara Bareilles was attached and was starring in it ,and I was geeking out about it. I worked on the materials, went in for the audition, went in on a Thursday. I was actually catering, so I had to get someone to cover me for two hours, and I snuck away. I went in, sang “Never Getting Rid Of Me” which is Ogie’s first act, first number,
AMFM:“Never Getting Rid Of Me?”
Jeremy:Oh yes, you’re in for a treat, it’s a well-crafted, funny song that Sara wrote. It’s Ogie’s love song to Dawn, one of the waitresses he falls in love with. So I sang the song in front of the entire creative team, and all of the producers, it was a jam-packed room. They all laughed!
I left the room and the casting director Bernie Saucie followed me and said, “Hey, can you stick around?” They were running behind, he asked if I could stay another 40 minutes, so I could go back in and sing.
I said, “I actually have to go back to Central Park Catering, I only have another 30 minutes before I have to be back there.” So he said “OK! Come back in.”
So I sang a song from my audition book…
AMFM:What song was that?
Jeremy:“I Chose Right” from Baby. I left the room, and got the call the next morning that I had the part.
I was actually lined up to do a kids show off Broadway in New York at the Lucille Lortelle Theater called “SkippyJon Jones in ‘Snow What’” which started that following Monday, I had to call them up on Friday and say “I’m so sorry, but I have to take this opportunity, thank you for everything.” They were super understanding.
AMFM: That’s good!
Jeremy: Yes, it was. So I did the out of town tryouts, and went it went to Broadway Chris Fitzgerald was already attached to the project, but couldn’t do the out of town Ogie. He did Ogie on Broadway. He opened it on Broadway and was nominated for a Tony Award. When he left, I replaced him on Broadway for 5 weeks and then came out to do the tour. So I’ve had quite a long journey of being with the show.
AMFM:So how was singing with Sara Bareilles?
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Jeremy:She was awesome. She was in the rehearsal room all the time, working with the other actors, crafting the way they sounded. She was super integral in the entire rehearsal process, and also had starred in the show multiple times. She’s currently back on Broadway playing the lead, Jenna in the show now.
AMFM:How does the play differ from the film Waitress?
Jeremy:The transfer from film to a play, especially when you’re playing these huge houses, makes everything a little bit bigger for the stage. I think the stage version retains a lot of the honesty, truth, and “slice of life” that happens in the movie, it’s just a little bit bigger.
The stage version has a lot more comedy infused into it. So the play is really funny but deals with some heavy issues in a great way. Sara’s music and lyrics do an amazing job of expanding upon the moments which occur in the film in just a split second. But she expands upon them and makes them glorious and beautiful with her music.
AMFM:About the comedy aspect, in previous things you’ve been seen in you’ve been known to steal the show. What part of that did you bring to the character Ogie, and is any of it your idea, in other words did you improvise anything or do you stick to what Sara wants?
Jeremy: Well, yeah, every good actor and director, and every good creative team is going to try and stick as closely to the script and stick to the story, making sure that no one is diverting from that and the story comes across, but they’re also going to take advantage of the skill sets that every actor brings to the table. So, there’s a short little clog dance that I got to come with and create with the team choreography, I have some little bits that are different that what happened on Broadway and have grown since I’ve been working on it. Also, what Chris Fitzgerald did on Broadway, he developed a ton of things that I’m either doing or paying homage to in the way that I do the scenes, but then I get to infuse my own ideas, and the director gets to put in her two cents, well probably more like 10 cents, into the piggy bank of creativity. It’s everybody crafting this show and the characters.
I have freedom to play, but not to play too much. So I try to be good, but sometimes with a really great audience I can’t help myself. I will indulge a little bit.
AMFM:Well, an audience is a living breathing thing, you’ve got to give and take.
Jeremy: Yes, but sometimes if the creative directors see me doing something that’s a little too goofy, they’ll say “ Jeremy, reel this in.” And I will do that. But at this point I have a pretty good idea of what is in the world of this show and what is not.
AMFM:How did you get interested in theater?
Jeremy: Music… I love music and it was my gateway. I had sang in choirs since and early age and loved that. My mom pushed me into taking dance classes which was super helpful when I started doing theater. It kind of all happened at once. There’s a great community theater, children’s theater program right outside of Philadelphia where I grew up in Upper Darby Pennsylvania called Upper Darby Summer Stage. I did children’s theater there since sixth grade, so I was probably 11. My first two shows were there. My first was “Once On This Island Junior,” where I played a tree, it was very exciting. My second show was “Kids Sing The Century,” and I remember I had a swing dance solo. It was fine, but it was so silly and small, a cast of a hundred kids. My mom was looking for me, and she probably found me (laughs). I was in the background, and was fine with that.
So every summer I did that, and the community of people of friends, and singing…I became addicted to the whole package that was Summer Theater. I kept doing it, and started getting better, I was taking voice lessons. My mom was pushing me to do what I loved.
In the 11th grade, I had a choice to pursue this path or go down the academic route, and my mom said “you should try, go and do this, you’re really good at it.” I love it, and I’m very fortunate that she pushed me in the direction that I needed.
AMFM:That’s a great mom!
Jeremy:She is so wonderful and supportive. So we looked at colleges. NYU looked good, ‘cause it was in New York. There was a specific program there I knew of, the Classical Voice at NYU Steinhardt Program in Vocal Performance. . So I got a Bachelor’s of Music there, I applied Early decision and got in. That made my choices easy, because once you get in with Early Decision, you’ve gotta go there.
AMFM:So it was a natural progression type of thing, not a lightning bolt out of the sky, BOOM!
Jeremy:No, there wasn’t any show that I saw and thought “I need to do this!” It was a collection of occurences and shows, and little pushes here and there. I mean, getting cast in this show, it all added up. I mean, I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do when I graduated from college. I got my entry card, and was having trouble finding work, so I got my real estate license in New York to help pay the bills, but thought “Maybe I need something with more stability,” but after doing that for two years….
AMFM: You knew…
Jeremy:I couldn’t sit there and go to theater, I was just too sad doing real estate.
AMFM: How long is this tour going to last?
It will be scheduled through to Toronto at the 6 week run at the Ed Mirvish Theatre in Toronto.until mid august. I’m currently signed on through April, but I wouldn’t be opposed to staying longer because my fiance, who’s also on the tour with me, she’s in the show as well, which is so cool and we’re so fortunate. We’re getting married on September 21st, so…
Jeremy:Thank you. I feel like we need to keep August open after the tour finishes and plan the wedding. I don’t have anything lined up as of yet, but I would love to go back if it runs longer on Broadway.
AMFM: Because you’ve been doing this awhile, do you have any sage wisdom to impart for child actors who like to do what you’re doing?
Jeremy:Ok, I’m asked this all the time, and I could talk for an hour or two about all the things you should or shouldn’t be doing.
But I would say first, try it all. As a child actor don’t limit yourself to on-camera, or musicals, get as much perspective on the industry is the most useful thing you can do for yourself.
Also, be an assistant director. Work with a director, see what their perspective is on how a play gets staged. Assist a casting director. Assist a choreographer. The most I’ve learned is working with a director and being behind the table in an audition room and watching so many people audition, and watching the way a casting is put together.
You deal with a ton of rejection is this industry. You don’t get probably 90% of the jobs you audition for. Probably more than that. So to understand why rejection occurs, and understand that most of the time it is not personal at all, and soften that blow. Once you don’t hear anything after an audition, it could be one of literally a thousand reasons you didn’t get that job.
My number two is see a lot of theater, get out and see as much as you can to see what you love and what resonates with you, and also find actors to emulate. It can be a very useful tool.
Finally, be nice to everybody.
AMFM:Capital letters right?
Jeremy:Be nice to everyone, and that doesn’t mean rolling over, but just being a nice person. It goes such a long way. To build a reputation early on as being someone that is good to work with and just not a jerk is massive. I’ve heard of too many people that are very talented that get passed over for being an ass. Word travels, it really does.
AMFM:It’s a small industry in reality, isn’t it.
Jeremy:Yes, it is. You think it’s not, but it really is. Of the people that are working constantly, it is a small industry.
AMFM:Congratulations on being part of that small industry! If I’m not being too nosy, who is it that you’re getting married to?
Jeremy:Sure! It’s Alex Tripp. She’s in the ensemble and plays Francine Pommattor.
AMFM: Fantastic! See you on stage Jeremy.
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