“What’s going through my head is the entire script,” the Scorpion and American Idol favorite tells Playbill. “I’ll be talking to myself, but I’ll be saying the lines. All I can do is eat, drink, breathe the show.”
McPhee will play Jenna, following in the footsteps of such performers as Tony winner Jessie Mueller and the show’s Tony- and Grammy-nominated composer, Sara Bareilles.
The musical balances a traditional pop song with introspective ballads, which draws McPhee to the material: “There are so many themes in the show that I connect to on a really deep, personal level: Being in relationships you’re not meant to be in, the feeling of not wanting to be a mother, wanting to be a mother. It has comedy, and heart, and darkness, and sadness, and hope.”
While Waitress marks her first official Broadway stint, McPhee does have musical roots, having watched her mother perform in regional productions and studied at Boston Conservatory for three semesters. Of course, Smash eventually followed, in which McPhee played Karen Cartwright—an aspiring performer in contention for the role of Marilyn Monroe in the fictional musical Bombshell.
“With Smash, we were learning a number, and then we could do it many times,” McPhee explains. “But the thing it does prepare you for is it’s so specific. It’s not just a play where you can walk here, walk there. It’s very specific.”
So how does McPhee’s Broadway debut compare to (the fictional) Karen Cartwright’s?
“Karen Cartwright has a poster in front of the theatre, but I don’t recall her having her own billboard in Times Square. So, just saying. Karen Cartwright is shaking right now. She is shook.”
McPhee takes her first bow at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre April 10.