It might take sugar, butter, and flour to make a perfect pie, but it took a lot more, including Sara Bareilles’ songwriting chops, to get to three years on Broadway.
Waitress is celebrating that milestone this week, and in honor of three years on the Great White Way, EW can exclusively debut Bareilles’ very first demo for the show’s signature ballad, “She Used to Be Mine.”
The ballad, which comes in the second act as a sort of 11 o’clock number, allows protagonist Jenna to interrogate the lack of control she feels over her life. Bareilles wrote the song before anything else in the score as a pseudo audition tape for director Diane Paulus and musical director Nadia DiGiallonardo to land the gig of writing the music and lyrics for Waitress. Her score went on to earn Tony and Grammy nominations.
Bareilles also exclusively shares an excerpt from a letter she wrote to Paulus and DiGiallonardo after taking her first crack at the song: “Hello ladies! I am nearing the end of my recording and just wanted to reach out and say I have birthed my first rough idea for Jenna’s ballad,” she wrote. “This is a super simple song, but it feels like an appropriate approach to Jenna’s moment of reflection of realizing just exactly what’s at stake in her life. It felt like a moment for her to describe herself in her own words, and be brutally honest with herself about who she was and the mistakes that she made. As I said, this is just a rough idea, but I actually really love the simplicity of it. Pleading, heartfelt and raw. There might be room musically, for a bridge to take her to some other point of self-reflection. Perhaps a key change, not sure. Just wanted to share progress in case it sparks anything in either of you.”
The song became an instant hit from the show, being performed by original star Jessie Mueller on the Tony Awards in 2016 and entering the Broadway songbook relatively quickly. Jeremy Jordan performed it to much acclaim during last year’s MCC “Miscast” benefit, and Bareilles even offered up a tongue-in-cheek rendition when she appeared on Saturday Night Live this month, performing the song while Kate McKinnon’s Theresa May grappled with her widespread unpopularity.
Listen to the exclusive clip above. Waitress is now playing on Broadway, on tour, and on London’s West End.