Pie in the Sky Role for ‘Waitress’ Star
Actress Jisel Soleil Ayon never suspected the casting directors were considering her for the lead role of Jenna when she auditioned for a part as a member of the ensemble for the musical Waitress last year. “I went through the entire process, from Zoom to my last call back in person, thinking I might at best get to be the understudy,” recalled Ayon, who had never been part of a touring company let alone its star. “It was only when my agent called to congratulate me that I realized they wanted me to play Jenna.”
But since then, things have been a whirlwind for the Long Beach-raised actress and singer, who got to spend time with and sing two of the show’s songs for pop star Sara Bareilles, who wrote the music and lyrics for the musical adaptation of the movie about a waitress who dreams of a way out of her small town and turbulent marriage that finally comes via her sister waitress pals and her prowess at making pies.
“It is not about trying to find a man to be the center of someone’s happiness, which is such a refreshing notion,” Ayon said.
Ayon’s bubbly personality and abundant supply of energy – she’s off-stage only a few minutes in the 150-minute show that plays the Granada Theatre January 18 and 19 – bring a welcome spirit to a story that she said can sound like a downer in a short synopsis but actually “ends up as uplifting because of how low it takes you throughout the show. The shiny, lovely moments between Jenna and her two waitress friends, and the moments of joy that she has with the doctor, stand out so much more because of the low places. It’s like life: you cannot be happy all the time or else you never know the real feeling of happiness.”
And while the actress hasn’t suffered an abusive relationship or wrestled with an unexpected pregnancy, she is able to channel a lot of her own personality into her performance, she said.
“I don’t have much in common with her, but I am so much myself on stage, because I don’t think I could do it any other way. And obviously they liked that I brought that in the audition.”
That mirrors in a way Ayon’s own approach to her career that blossomed soon after she realized that acting was a passion, not a hobby.
“I can’t live without it. This is what I was put on this earth to do.”