What is happening with Waitress West End? Stage Casting tactics?

  • Charlotte Maidment

There has been a lot of discussion recently about different events occurring at the West End production of the musical ‘Waitress’.  Earlier this week, it was announced that there would be two cast changes to the roles of Jenna and Dawn.

Photography by Johan Persson

Photography by Johan Persson

Jenna will be played by Lucie Jones who will take over the role after Katharine McPhee departs from the show on the 17th of June. However, Laura Baldwin’s contract for the role of Dawn was not meant to expire at the same time, yet the role of Dawn will be played by Ashley Roberts from the 17th of June. Baldwin is due to return to the show at the end of summer, but I can’t help but ask questions about the production’s motives for doing this and the implications this has on the actors.

It seems like the producers at Waitress are purposely casting Ashley Roberts throughout the summer period as a tactic to increase ticket sales. Roberts is well known for her girl group ‘The Pussycat Dolls’ and her appearance on the television show ‘Strictly Come Dancing’. This means that she has quite a large fanbase already that are likely to support her when it comes to her West End debut. It’s no secret that ticket sales for ‘Waitress’ have not been the best so it seems like the production team are bringing a celebrity in for the busy summer period in order to increase ticket sales, make more money and save the show from closing.

Although this is a technique that does help to prolong the time that productions are able to stay open, I cannot help but feel bad for the actors that this affects. I can’t imagine that Laura Baldwin planned to take the summer off work. So, what has happened? Is she completely out of a job for the summer? Is she getting paid? It seems unfair for her to be taken out of her role, just to increase ticket sales. As an actor myself, I don’t know if I would be able to stay there after being treated like that.

Laura Baldwin is a star and already has many people supporting her on social media saying that the ‘Waitress’ team are treating her unfairly. Other popular theatre figures such as Carrie Hope Fletcher and Michael Jibson have backed her up as well as the huge fan base that she has built up over the duration of her run with the show.

My main concern for her is how is she earning money over the summer period? Will she be understudying for the role? It is unclear now what she will be doing over the summer, but I really hope that she is able to earn the money and be able to continue with the role after Ashley’s run. I’m sure that Ashley will be amazing at playing Dawn as well, but Laura is loved by so many for her portrayal of Dawn and it is difficult currently to see the role being played by anyone else.

I understand that sometimes, the production team of a show must call for desperate measures when the show is not selling well. I wouldn’t want to see ‘Waitress’ close on the West End, but I do really feel for Laura, and I hope that she is able to return to the role after summer as if she had never left.