Jeremy Morse has his Waitress character, Ogie, figured out.
“I’m a bit of an odd duck myself, so it comes naturally,” Morse says with a laugh.
Fans can decide for themselves when Waitress comes to ASU Gammage Tuesday, October 2, to Sunday, October 7.
Morse, 32, came to acting in a roundabout way.
“I wanted to go to school for math or physics, maybe be an engineer. I was very academic. But I really fell in love with the theater, in high school. And my parents told me I should really go for it.”
He earned a music degree in vocal performance from New York University’s Steinhardt program and did regional work before playing the part of El Coco Drillo, a Mexican villain, in Joe Iconis’ Bloodsong of Love at an off-Broadway, nonprofit theater in New York City’s Hell’s Kitchen. Morse was nominated for a Drama Desk outstanding featured actor in a musical award. Morse says it was quite an honor to be nominated for playing a Mexican, considering that he is of mixed Russian, German and Irish descent.
Morse made his Broadway debut playing Ogie in Waitress.
“I’ve done the show for over three years now. There is a lot of comedy in the show, and Ogie is definitely a comedic role. And although Ogie is not a massive part of the show, I just get to be a little, lovable goofball.”
The musical is based on a low-budget 2007 indie film, with music and lyrics by singer-songwriter Sara Bareilles, whose “Love Song” reached No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart. She received Tony and Grammy award nominations for the musical’s compositions. The musical had previews in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and moved to the Brooks Atkinson Theatre on Broadway in 2016. The U.S. national tour began in Cleveland, Ohio in 2017.
Morse is a natural for the musical, revealing that he heard “music in my head” from an early age, which he admits some might consider creepy. And when he is back home in New York he constantly plays his violin.
The musical follows the heartache of a pregnant waitress named Jenna, who finds relief from her loveless marriage by baking uniquely tasty pies that are a big hit at the diner where she works. Her husband steals her tips to get drunk, and after losing his job becomes even more of a brute. Jenna has an on-again, off-again affair with a married doctor, and dreams of winning enough money in a pie-baking contest to escape her husband. In the meantime, Ogie woos Dawn, another waitress at the diner, and they marry in a ceremony catered by Jenna. And although Jenna’s husband finds and takes the money she has squirreled away to enter the pie-baking contest, so she can’t compete, it all works out in the end.
“I try to keep it fresh,” Morse says. “Every night there is a different audience and different reactions to different lines. We’re also getting new cast members, with slightly different costumes. That keeps it from being a grind.”
Waitress, ASU Gammage, 1200 S. Forest Avenue, Tempe, asugammage.com, 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, October 2 to Friday, October 5, 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, October 6, and 6:30 p.m. Sunday, October 7, $20-$236.