For the next two months, fans of singer-songwriter Jason Mraz, whose catalog includes the megahit “I’m Yours,” can see him on a stage that’s different from the ones he’s used to. Last week he joined the cast of Sara Bareilles’s Broadway musical, Waitress, playing a gynecologist who strikes up a questionable relationship with a patient. Time Out New York reader and Mraz enthusiast Imani Denson-Pittman chatted with him by phone about his latest venture.
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How did you first get involved with Waitress?
Sara invited me to sing on her album version of these songs. Two years later, after the show was up and established, we did a show together over the summer and shortly after that she called me and asked if I’d consider playing Dr. Pomatter for a few weeks. I’d never considered it! And I'm honored to give it a shot.
But you have a background in musical theater, right? You went to the American Musical and Dramatic Academy.
Yeah, but I wasn’t at AMDA very long and it was 20 years ago. I loved singing; that was my joy. Musical theater was an option, but when I got to New York I started playing guitar, and that became another option. And I thought, Wow, I can play guitar and sing on the street corner, on the subway, Central Park, anywhere! I don’t need be a waiter and go to auditions for the rest of my life.
Yeah, that's hard.
The stark realities of the competitive nature of this business sort of led me down a different path. But I'm happy to be back, because it's a thrill to be on stage night after night and to help tell a story and to hopefully help people have an emotional response and evoke laughter. Those things are part of the thrill of musical theater, and they're what I love to do as a writer or a singer
How have rehearsals been going?
Everything's going swimmingly.
What about the character of Dr. Pomatter is closest to you personally?
I think he is confident in his work, but he’s still somewhat of a high school boy when he’s sharing his emotions. And that has been my weakness as well. I was shy to say my truth to people, so I would go home and turn it into song; I had no problem telling that truth from the stage, but I couldn’t say it face-to-face. Dr. Pomatter is very strong and professional, but there are a few truths that he stammers and stutters about. So I guess the short answer would be: We’re both a little neurotic.
What would you like the audience to gain from your performance?
I honestly don’t want it to be more or less than what’s already happening with Waitress. I hope that fans continue to love the show and that people seeing it for the first time aren’t affected by me. I cry every time I see it, because there are moments that make me well up with joy, gratitude, sorrow—all those little things.
Would you consider writing your own musical?
I would consider it, yeah. I would. Just writing one song can be hard enough, let alone a whole album’s worth of songs, let alone an entire story line that's going to come to life on stage while building characters. To me that seems an impossible task. But…it's been done; people can do it. So why not give it a shot at some point in my life? When I look at it I think, Oh great, it's time to climb Mount Everest and that's never fun—but gosh, wouldn't it feel good to get to the top and see how that feels?
Jason Mraz is in Waitress at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre through January 14.
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