It is often the simplest stories that tell the greatest stories of inspiration and success.
Take, for example, the Tony Award-nominated musical “Waitress”, the National Tour
including Alyssa Kay Thompson, who graduated from Baldwin Wallace University in 2017, as Music Director.
Before discussing the popular pie-centric show, which features original music and lyrics by Grammy Award-winning Sara Bareilles, there’s Thompson’s journey, which began as a young Connecticut native, innovating on the Berea campus and charting its own career path.
“I went to Baldwin Wallace with the intention of studying to be a music director, which was not yet a really formal program,” said Thompson, calling from Springfield. “I ended up creating my own specialty, going through the course catalogs every semester and choosing what I thought would be most useful to me.
“It ended up being a lot of work trying to create this major myself from scratch. Now what I did has been formalized in a real major.
This work quickly paid off for Thompson. Just a year after becoming the first female to graduate from the Baldwin Wallace Conservatory’s Music Directing Program, she used her initial professional experience as a “Jersey Boys” music director on a cruise ship to make her Broadway debut. conducting “Summer: The Donna Summer Musical”.
As for “Waitress,” the musical – which she saw on Broadway during a school trip to New York in 2016 – not only had a dramatic and emotional effect on Thompson, but cemented her career aspirations.
“I remember seeing a woman at the piano leading this show,” said Thompson. “I just broke down in tears. I had never seen a female conductor on a Broadway stage.
“From that point on, I didn’t necessarily define the show as a goal of something I wanted to do, but I held it in a very special place in my heart. “Waitress” has traditionally had a female conductor, so I knew it was something I could do. When I was given the opportunity to do the show, I felt like the loop was so complete and so fair. “
Inspired by Adrienne Shelly’s acclaimed 2007 film starring Keri Russell, “Waitress” kicks off the 2021-22 series on Broadway in Akron with performances October 8-9 at EJ Thomas Hall in Akron.
The plot revolves around waitress Jenna, who is also a pie expert. She finds herself stuck not only in a small town, but also in a loveless marriage with an unexpected baby on the way.
There is a baking contest in a neighboring county and a new love, both of which can give a fresh start. Ultimately, however, any change for Jenna will require self-discovery and confidence.
It is no exaggeration to see parallels between Thompson’s trip from northeast Ohio to Broadway and the themes explored in “Waitress.”
“I think everyone can relate to a point in their life where they suddenly feel empowered, they realize the power of their own actions, their individual self and being in control of their destiny,” said Thompson.
“We all have our own version of this moment. For Jenna on the show, it’s about seeing her newborn baby for the first time. Mine may have moved to New York and realized that I’m good at what I do and could really work as a music director. So the heart of this show and its score is just the reality. It’s just a simple human story.
Presenter: Broadway in the Akron series.
When: 7:30 p.m. on October 8 and 9.
Or: EJ Thomas Hall, 198 Hill Street, Akron.
Tickets: $ 20 to $ 77.50.