The Connor Palace stage, house, lobby and backstage areas were a quiet hive of activity at Playhouse Square last week. The Waitress crew was working in high gear to organize costumes and props and continue to assemble the set, sound and lighting the day that the cast was arriving for its first rehearsal in Cleveland.

The 19-member adult cast flew in from New York on Oct. 5 for its first rehearsal at the Connor Palace on Friday, which would be their home for three weeks as Playhouse Square launches the 31-city national tour of Waitress.

As the actors entered the Connor Palace lobby for the first time, some 30 Destination Cleveland staff members cheered them on with an array of pink, white and black balloons and posters. Cast member Patrick Dunn responded with high energy, cartwheeling down a carpet runner and executing a split leap as he yelled, “Let’s go to rehearsal for 10 hours!”

The cast, which had been rehearsing in New York since Sept. 11, was ready for its first day in Cleveland on Friday, their first time transferring their work to the stage with sets, props and technical elements for the show, which opens next Tuesday and runs through Nov. 5. (Ticket information:

The first truck for Waitress arrived Sept. 25 in Cleveland, with more coming in waves from various New York design shops over the next two weeks. Friday was the day the props truck arrived, including numerous mouthwatering-looking pie props. (Pies also were seen in two towers of shelves that make up the set’s proscenium.)

In this musical, which premiered on Broadway in 2015, master pie maker Jenna, a waitress who works in a diner, feels trapped in both her small town and loveless marriage. She seeks a way out through a baking contest and perhaps a fresh start with the town’s new doctor.

So what makes launching a national tour special for Cleveland?

To start with, the all-female creative team is working on the ground with the cast in Cleveland to open the tour. The Broadway show is led by esteemed director Diane Paulus, Grammy-nominated composer Sara Bareilles, book writer Jessie Nelson and choreographer Lorin Latarro.

“She’s here working. It’s her work,’’ Playhouse Square Executive Producer Gina Vernaci said of Paulus. “This is their baby.”

Lead producers Barry and Fran Weissler, as well as executive producer Alecia Parker, also have been in Cleveland since the cast has arrived.

“You’re working directly with the producer’s office. That doesn’t happen often,’’ Vernaci said. “It is real work to get this put together. We’re partners with those producers and this company to work inside their heads to make sure that we’re delivering their expectations. When you put together a Broadway musical, it’s like assembling the Macy’s parade.”

Adding to the excitement, the producers and creative team members will be in the audience opening week for the tour’s launch, along with Cleveland audiences.

Heading into the launch, Vernaci said Playhouse Square staff members are on hand each day until cast and crew go home at night. That includes help from a five-person hospitality staff, two interns and local crew members.

Launch in Cleveland

Launching the tour in Cleveland requires production prep of about four weeks. In contrast, when Playhouse Square is just a stop on a tour, a show arrives and loads in the day before it opens.

Starting the national tour 18 months after the Broadway production opened also allows the creative team to tweak the show and create changes they didn’t have time to make for the Broadway opening. Cleveland audiences will be the first to see those changes.

“It’s important because you only open the tour in one place, and the eyes of the entire country and industry are on you,’’ Vernaci said. “It’s a tremendous source of pride” and it puts people to work and into hotel rooms in Cleveland, she said.

On Friday morning, set pieces on the Connor Palace stage included a diner counter and stools. In the wings, another diner set piece featured a sign listing numerous pie flavors, including humble crumble, rhubarb and “Aren’t You Sweet potato pie.”

Also in the wings was a five-tiered tray of realistic-looking raspberry, blueberry and meringue pies, edged in lace for a wedding scene. A hospital bed set piece was stored high above the stage and a doll baby wrapped in a striped hospital blanket lay in a bassinet at stage left. Props that had been unloaded that morning, including a variety of coffee pots and cooking utensils, were placed on boards over the house seats, waiting to be organized.

In the crossover space behind the stage, a wardrobe case was opened up like a closet, with hanging costumes that looked like streetwear for these everyday characters sorted by actor. Blue laundry baskets with each of their names sat below the clothing.

In the busy wardrobe room downstairs, more costumes were hanging near a sewing machine as well as a cabinet filled with wooden shoe stretchers and numerous Tupperware containers, labeled “bras,” “nude dance belts,” “mic packs,” “zippers,” “hot glue” and more.

Hilary Hamilton, associate general manager for Waitress, said by phone that the sound department had overtaken the entire Connor Palace lobby with sound crates to assemble the system before installing it in the theater.

“When the cast comes out on the stage [for rehearsal], everything needs to be working,’’ she said. “We call it wringing out the system.”

The full Waitress company will travel with 40 people — including cast, crew and musicians — in six trucks to future cities. After the wardrobe and hair truck load-in was complete in Cleveland last Wednesday, the wardrobe supervisor and crew worked busily for two days to unpack, label, steam, iron and touch up garments before putting them in appropriate dressing rooms.

“It’s got to get into an organized place so it can load in and out of theaters very easily,’’ Hamilton said.

She said it takes a special commitment from a theater to be available to a production company about 3½ extra weeks early in order to launch a tour.

“It’s pretty special that we get to do this here. This is such a gorgeous facility and we’re thrilled to be here,’’ Hamilton said.

Finally, audiences should know that this sweet story’s celebration of pies will begin in the lobby, where theatergoers will experience the wafting aromas of pie flavors.

The Broadway show’s pie consultant, Stacy Donnelly, is creating individual pie jars and driving the first shipment to Cleveland for opening week, to be sold as concessions.

“It will be a scratch-and-sniff experience,’’ Vernaci said.

Arts writer Kerry Clawson may be reached at 330-996-3527 or Follow her at @KerryClawsonABJ or