Desi Oakley made her Broadway debut Wicked! Since then she has been in Annie and Evita as well as making her television debut on Gotham. She is even working on a new album. She is currently playing Jenna in Waitress the musical which is playing at Seattle’s Paramount Theatre through Sunday, September 16th. Get tickets and more info here.
Desi took a couple minutes out of her busy schedule to talk to us about the historical musical, Waitress. The show is changing the face of Broadway and musicals with an entirely female creative team. This is must-see theater.
Earle Dutton (ED): Could you tell me a little about your character in Waitress the musical?
Desi Oakley (DO): She is an expert pie maker at a diner in a small town. She is what I would consider a loveless and abusive marriage. She often buries her reality in her pies. She is not very good at facing her truth and accepting herself for who she is. So, the story of Waitress is about her friend opening her eyes to that reality. Her gynecologist helps her open her heart to remembering who she is again. I think the audience wonders if she will get out and root for herself or is she just going to stay stuck.
ED: Does this story mirror you in any way?
DO: I guess we can all relate to her in a lot of ways. We have all had times where we were stuck or we have pushed aside our dreams. She is not really good at knowing her own potential. She can’t see how wonderful and talented she is. That is something I really have to find every night. I have been working for this dream of mine to perform throughout my entire life. We are opposites in that way. I really think we can all relate to Jenna. The other two waitresses are also dealing with really universal problems and issues about being afraid to love or making mistakes. That is why this show is so relatable. That is why audiences are so in love with it. It is a story about real people dealing with real life issues.
ED: How do you prepare for a role like this one?
DO: It has become a little bit of second nature. We have been performing it for almost a year now. It is a lot easier to tap into now than in the beginning. I think the best way to maintain Jenna is to maintain Desi (myself). I have to be able to find my truth as a person to be able to tell Jenna’s truth each night.
ED: What is it like to work with this all-female creative team? It sounds like it would be so empowering.
DO: It is very empowering. This has never happened before. It is Broadway history! We are also telling a story about three women. The last three final bows of this show are all women. The audience is on their feet and it is wonderful. This show is incredibly empowering. It is a new perspective of life told through a woman but that doesn’t mean that men can’t enjoy it. I have spoken to so many men over this past year that just can’t believe the story that we tell up on stage. They are normally pretty shook by it all.
ED: You have had some exciting adventures in the last couple of years. What are you looking forward to next?
DO: Great question! I am looking forward to so many things. Here is LA I have been able to meet and sign on with some great business people here. I am really looking forward to expanding my presence out here. I would love to do some more TV and film. I have another album that I am putting out. I am looking forward to playing some concerts in NYC and possibly getting into some workshops for Broadway bound musicals. A lot of exciting things on the horizon.
ED: Do you have any other favorite musicals?
DO: My favorite musical is Thoroughly Modern Millie and I would love to play Millie! That is my dream role.
ED: Why is that your dream role?
DO: Well, she is from Kansas and moves to New York. That is basically my story. It takes place in the Roaring Twenties. It uses present day language but set in the 20s. The music is just absolutely beautiful. I am looking forward to eventually playing that role. It is also a story about a strong woman.
ED: Do you have a message for young women who might want to get into a career like yours?
DO: Absolutely! It is a tricky business. You have to know who you are to your core. There will be a lot of people telling you who you are or who they think you are. It is important to know who you are and to really know yourself. You need to really know yourself outside of this career. It requires a lot of hard work and having some passions outside to this career.
ED: In closing, what is your favorite part of Waitress?
DO: I have so many favorite parts but I love playing to a different audience every night. I love to hear how people are affected by this story. I can hear people being moved by this story. That is the part of the craft that is magic!
Waitress is playing at Seattle’s Paramount Theatre through Sunday, September 16th. Get tickets and more info here.