Chelsea Halfpenny is just loving Waitress, a “total romcom with music” - Southampton and Brighton

She’s done the soaps, but she’s absolutely loving her time in musical theatre right now.

WAITRESS. Chelsea Halfpenny 'Jenna'. Photo Johan Persson
WAITRESS. Chelsea Halfpenny 'Jenna'. Photo Johan Persson

Chelsea Halfpenny (BBC's Casualty, ITV's Emmerdale) made her musicals debut with 9 To 5; she’s now on the road with Sara Bareilles’ Waitress as Jenna opposite Matt Willis as Dr Pomatter.

Dates include Mayflower Theatre, Southampton from May 24-28 and Brighton Theatre Royal from July 11-16.

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“For me the attraction was the songs. I have always been a fan of Sara Bareilles and she has done a lot. I knew her from her concerts really. She's a pop star and this is her first musical. But I think what she has done with this show really resonates with people. I knew all the songs before I saw the show and I just love it. It's a total romcom with music.

“I joined the show in January. When this tour started somebody else was playing the role and she went on and so I joined and it really is just such a lovely show. You don't always get to a show that you absolutely adore but with this one it's just a total delight.”

Part of the pleasure, of course, is to be coming back from all the challenges of the pandemic. Chelsea admits she hardly worked at all: “I was doing a musical at the time in the West End, 9 To 5 and that just shut down. It was really difficult, and really I barely did anything for two years. I really don't know how I spent my time. I think the difficulty was we just didn't know how long it was going to last.”

As she says, plenty of people learnt new skills during the lockdowns, but she has to admit that she didn't: “I can't actually claim to have achieved anything really! But it really is lovely to come back!”

The show is the tale of Jenna, a waitress and expert pie-maker who dreams of some happiness in her life. When a hot new doctor arrives in town, life gets complicated. With the support of her workmates Becky and Dawn, Jenna overcomes the challenges she faces and finds that laughter, love and friendship can provide the perfect recipe for happiness.

“What is brilliant about this show is that all the characters are super complex. It shows that humans are flawed. Sometimes we make good decisions, sometimes we make bad decisions. Nothing is black and white.

“She works in a diner and she makes these pies and what she does is she bakes her problems into her pies. We find out that she is using baking as her coping mechanism amid all the negative things in her life but through the support of her friends and the doctor who comes to town, you go through a lot of twists and turns, and it is a really great story.”

Chelsea is originally from Gateshead but she lives in London now: “But I did spend a lot of time during lockdown back up there and it was just really nice. Newcastle is a cool city and I felt really proud when we did the show there. It was lovely to be back.”

The show by Grammy award-winning Sara Bareilles (Love Song, Brave) features a book by acclaimed screenwriter Jessie Nelson.