Star of the Week: Showstopper Keala Settle returns to Broadway in Waitress

Keala Settle as Becky in "Waitress."

Keala Settle as Becky in Waitress.

To know her is to love her; it’s a tired cliché but words that ring true when referring to Broadway star Keala Settle. Settle, who is best known for her Tony-nominated role as Norma Velverde in the musical Hands on a Hardbody, is returning to Broadway as she and the company of Waitress start previews tonight.

Settle was last seen on Broadway as Madame Thenadier in the original company of the 2014 revival of Les Miserables. As the unyielding cruel caretaker to young Cosette, Settle caused roaring laughter from the audience eight times a week as she played one of the beloved musical’s most antagonistic roles.

After leaving Les Miserables on March 1, 2015, Settle signed on with the pre-Broadway run of Waitress from August to September at the American Repertory Theatre in Cambridge, Mass. Settle shined in the role of the sassy, strong Becky and her soulful performance of the show-stopping number “I Didn’t Plan It” had critics and fans buzzing about another Tony nomination for the beloved supporting actress.

Settle first garnered attention in her Broadway debut as Shirley in the 2011 Broadway musical Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. The musical, which is often referred to as a cult favorite, starred Tony nominee Will Swenson and Broadway favorite Nick Adams. But it was her role as Norma Velverde in Hands on a Hardbody that made Settle a Broadway superstar.

As the character of Norma, based closely on the real Norma Velverde, Settle performed the powerful “Joy of the Lord” which became the anthem of the musical. Settle’s performance received the most glowing reviews of the musical, resulted in a Theatre World Award for Outstanding Debut, and catapulted Settle into an elite group as one of Broadway’s strongest vocalists.

However, Settle is much more than one of Broadway’s best belters. She works closely with the Covenant House, an organization which aims to help homeless youth in New York City, and has participated with their annual sleep-out event which brings together members of the Broadway community and underprivileged youth for an outdoor sleepover. Settle has also her donated time and talent to other charities including Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS and Broadway Impact.

Settle is a force of energy. She has one of the most uplifting spirits in theatre and steals the scene any time she’s on stage. As Waitress begins their previews, much will be said for her powerhouse performance and chemistry with Eric Anderson and leading lady Jessie Mueller. One of Settle’s borrowed anthem’s might be a sarcastic “nobody cares”, but this talented diva has everyone’s rapt attention.

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About Samantha S.

"I found the theatre and I found my home.” ― Audra McDonald

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