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Desi Oakley is Serving Up Smiles in Waitress at the National Theatre

8 min read

On this latest edition of INTERVUE: Today’s guest has been featured in such Broadway shows as Les Miserables, Wicked and Annie. She has also been featured in the national tours of Evita and Wicked. As a singer-songwriter, her music can be found on both Spotify and iTunes. Now, she’ll be baking her way across the country as Jenna in the brilliant movie turned Broadway musical “Waitress” coming to the National Theatre May 15th– June 3rd.

Oakley plays Jenna, a waitress and expert pie maker who dreams of a way out of her small town and loveless marriage. A baking contest in a nearby county and the town’s new doctor may offer her a chance at a fresh start while her fellow waitresses offer their own receipt for happiness but Jenna must muster up her own strength and courage to rebuild her life. Ladies and Gentlemen: here’s the wonderful Desi Oakley

I am glad that you have the role of Jenna, originally played by Keri Russell on the big screen. Have you seen the movie? If so, are you a fan of “Waitress”

Absolutely, I saw the film after I was cast. I had not seen the film prior to being cast for the show. Then, I watch the film to learn more about it and I, of course, fell in love with it.

What do you like about playing Jenna?

I love playing Jenna because she’s so real. She’s such a real human being. The character goes through a lot. I love telling this story because I feel it’s so relatable, it’s really different from the roles that I played before because she is the girl next door and she’s going through issues and problems that a lot of people deal with on a day-to-day basis. I like telling this story because it has a real impact on audiences.

I can agree since you’re from a small town and your talent has taken you to many places. You had an album out. You been in both Broadway and national tours. It’s amazing to see how you have come up in the world.

Thank you and that’s the challenge of playing Jenna. I’m from a smaller town which is in south Kansas. It’s not as small as Jenna’s town – it’s definitely no New York. To play someone who has lost sense of her dreams from a small town, it’s interesting because I came from a small town and have always fought for my dreams. It’s a challenge to play somebody who does not have that capacity at all. It’s incredible to see how this story is making a difference in people’s lives.

Tell about the life on tour. You’re traveling across the country playing Jenna.

Being on tour has its challenges, that’s for sure. Every week, our day off is our travel day. We don’t technically get much time off and its constant change of scenery, change of weather, change of hotel rooms, change of beds, change of people, change of audiences and change of venues. So often times, what I do is cling to what you know. Our cast, crew and company are usually the same. Each of us have our comforts that makes the tour a little bit easier. For me, I like to find a yoga studio in each city that I go to. It helps bring me my center in each city. The upside is that I get to see parts of the country that I never seen before or probably wouldn’t see. Im meeting tons of people. I am seeing downtowns of different cities. Each city is proud of their city and I love it. It’s a blast to see different people and work with different people. 

You’re visiting the DC Area. Is this your first time touring the DC area?

No, I played Evita at the Kennedy Center. It will be my second time touring through but more than my second time for I love DC. Being a New Yorker, I get there as often I can. I find DC so charming with its history. It’s an amazing place to go with lots to see and do. Our cast is really looking forward to our stop there.

Glad to hear it and I am glad you said that about my city! (we both laugh) I feel the same way about NYC. I never been to Kansas, considering that KS and I have the shared connection. KS and I share the same birthday, albeit 120 years apart.

Oh my goodness, that’s amazing!

Is there anything that you would love to do in DC that you haven’t done in DC yet?

Ok, I would really love to take a Segway tour.

A Segway tour!?! I haven’t even done that and yet I live here. Why would you want to do a Segway Tour?

That sounds so fun to me. I remember that they use to do it at night. It’s so amazing. Of course, I love going to the museums. I know there are a couple that I haven’t been to. I want to see all the museums. I want to hang out on the National Mall. I love to ride my bike thru the Mall and all the amazing paths and the great weather. The Cherry Blossoms might be out too right?

Yes, the blossoms should be out by the time you get here.

I can’t wait to do that; you’re getting me all excited.

At this point, I had given Desi some recommendations on DC museums to see while she is here. Next, walk us through the day in the life. What do you when you’re on tour.

You know, it kind of changes. For someone in my position, being a principal, I don’t have as much rehearsal as the cast would have. There are some days that sometimes happen. For me, our tour schedule is mostly at night and on the weekends. So, my daytimes are pretty free. I will sleep in for our shows get out late. I’ll get up and find a cute coffee shop. In each city, I like to drink at the local coffee shop and I love to support local businesses. I will find a cute place for lunch and join one of my cast mates for lunch. Then, I will find a local yoga studio to relax as it’s my favorite form of exercise. It’s a really great way to meditate, get centered, get grounded. Then around 4 or 5pm, I get back to where I am living which could be at a hotel or an Airbnb to truly live like a local in each city. I started my warm-up then I get to the theater an hour before the curtain which is actually pretty early compared to when I am leading the show. Then, I work on becoming Jenna again.

What was the moment you realized that you want to pursue a career in acting and singing?

I have been performing since I was really young, I mean eight or nine years old but I wasn’t really taking it seriously. It served as an extra-curricular activity at the time like soccer or ballet. I didn’t think of it, as a kid, that this would be my career. I started taking it more seriously in high school. It was probably around fourteen or fifteen that I really said “I really have a dream to do this.” Most people asked me if I was a child star or a child prodigy. I didn’t come into my voice or into my talent until high school. I try to encourage people that it’s not too late if you want to perform. Having a dream like this is important and if you believe you can than you might be right. That’s the message of Waitress.

Waitress is at The National Theatre, playing until June 3rd. You can purchase tickets online at, by calling 800-514-3849, or in person at the National Theatre box office (Monday thru Friday, Noon to 6:00 PM).