A two-time Tony nominee is packing her Broadway bags next week and sailing straight into Annapolis, Maryland.
Laura Osnes will be performing a special cabaret concert called “A Little Bit of Broadway and All That Jazz” at Maryland Hall on Saturday, July 29. The event is co-sponsored by Classic Theatre of Maryland.
“We’re doing a night of American jazz standards: George Gershwin, Cole Porter, Duke Ellington,” Osnes told WTOP. “I will be accompanied by the Unified Jazz Ensemble, which is a five-piece jazz band, so we’re basically singing standards that you will know and love from the ’20s, ’30s and ’40s. … I’m thrilled for this opportunity to get to bring a little bit of Broadway and jazz to the Maryland area.”
Osnes is no stranger to performing in this area, from the Kennedy Center Honors to “A Capitol Fourth.”
“It is one of my favorite places to visit,” Osnes said. “I’ve been very involved with the Kennedy Center. I’ve done a bunch of concerts there with the National Symphony [Orchestra]. I’ve performed at the Kennedy Center Honors three times, I’ve done ‘A Capitol Fourth’ three times as well, and I just love it there.”
Born in Burnsville, Minnesota in 1985, Osnes grew up in the suburbs of St. Paul. She first got a taste of theater by playing a Munchkin in a second-grade production of “The Wizard of Oz” at her elementary school.
“The theater bug bit, I really fell in love with theater,” Osnes said. “I went to college for musical theater, but only for a year in Wisconsin, and just knew it was what I wanted to do. I got offered a job opportunity back in Minneapolis to work at a theater for a year. … I was actually playing Sandy in a dinner theater production of ‘Grease’ in Minnesota at the time and the director let me out for a weekend to fly to L.A. to audition.”
The audition was for the NBC reality competition show “Grease: You’re the One That I Want!” (2007). Competing as “Small-Town Sandy,” Osnes won at age 21, alongside Max Crumm as Danny Zuko.
“I actually heard about it in the newspaper, I think in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, my aunt had found it,” Osnes said. “I kept making it past the next levels and ended up competing live on TV for two and a half months then won the competition! It was a crazy experience. I was young and bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and eager for the opportunity — and I can’t believe my Broadway dream came true.”
Her prize was the role of Sandy in the 2007 Broadway revival of “Grease,” a role that was originated on stage by Carole Demas in 1971 and on screen by the late Olivia Newton-John in 1978. She relished singing iconic show tunes like “Summer Nights,” “Hopelessly Devoted” and “You’re the One That I Want.”
“It really was amazing,” Osnes said. “I had always wanted to be on Broadway, getting entrance applause and getting to go to the stage door and meet fans after the show who had voted for me on TV and getting a chance to thank them, because honestly we were voted in, America called in and voted, so I have a lot owed to the American public and fans that followed my journey. … That was the launchpad for my Broadway career.”
In 2009, Osnes was next cast as Nellie Forbush in the Broadway revival of “South Pacific,” proving that she was here to stay rather than some one-trick pony from a TV reality show.
“I do feel like getting to do ‘South Pacific’ was my legitimizing moment,” Osnes said. “People finally took me seriously. Not that they didn’t before, I worked hard during ‘Grease,’ but felt like I had a lot to prove though, coming from a reality show. Getting to assume the role of Nellie Forbush following the brilliant Kelli O’Hara was really the thing where people finally took me seriously. … I definitely had to prove myself.”
In 2011, she joined the acclaimed Broadway revival of “Anything Goes,” co-starring Tony winner Sutton Foster (“Thoroughly Modern Millie”), Oscar winner Joel Grey (“Cabaret”) and Emmy winner Jessica Walter (“Arrested Development”), who played her mother.
“The first day of rehearsal, I was sitting two chairs down from Sutton Foster and hearing her iconic voice sing those songs,” Osnes said. “I grew up emulating Sutton and had seen her in several shows that she had done before I moved to New York, so she was always an inspiration of mine. Finally getting to work with her was so wonderful, and Joel as well, then Jessica Walter played my mother. … She was a hoot.”
That same year, she also brought “Bonnie & Clyde” to Broadway, playing the Bonnie Parker to Jeremy Jordan’s Clyde Barrow in the big shoes of Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty. The show wasn’t a critical success and was very short-lived, but it still earned Osnes her first Tony nomination five months after the show had closed.
“Bonnie is another one of those iconic characters,” Osnes said. “Everybody has an expectation in their mind as to who they think this woman should be and Faye Dunaway really set the way for that, but the cool thing about Bonnie is that she’s an actual human in history. We were able to do a lot of research about who these people actually were and not just the Hollywoodized version of them in the movie.”
Then, she entered the Rodgers and Hammerstein chapter of her career, first performing the role of Maria in a 2012 concert performance of “The Sound of Music” at Carnegie Hall in New York City, followed by a 2013 Broadway production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Cinderella.” The latter earned her another Tony Award nomination in a role that was later filled by “Call Me Maybe” pop singer Carly Rae Jepsen.
“One of the highlights of my entire career was that one-night concert of ‘The Sound of Music,'” Osnes said. “That score is iconic, I have loved Julie Andrews since I was a very young girl and ‘The Sound of Music’ was a movie I grew up watching. … We developed ‘Cinderella’ for two years before it finally came to Broadway and it was neat to be part of that development process. … Our script was completely rewritten and modernized.”
In 2017, Osnes joined Corey Cott to headline the Broadway musical “Bandstand” set during World War II.
“Corey and I are still great friends,” Osnes said. “‘Bandstand’ was special because it was completely original. There was no movie, there was no book of this, there was no preconceived notion of what this is. I got to create the role of Julia Trojan from the ground up and I really feel like it was catered around me. … I played a war widow who had lost her husband. … I connected with multiple Gold Star wives to hear their stories.”
Since then, Osnes has expanded to television, appearing on hit shows like Amazon Prime’s “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” and even played Shirley MacLaine in FX’s acclaimed miniseries “Fosse/Verdon.”
“I actually had to do a lot of research [on MacLaine],” Osnes said. “The crazy thing about that role was that it was one day on set, I was in one small scene and I had just a moment, so it was really fun just to have the whole get-up and get the hair and makeup done to look like her for a minute, but I really only had like three or four lines. … Working with Michelle Williams on set for a day, it was just crazy, it was an unreal experience.”
Lately, she’s starred in holiday TV movies like Hallmark’s “A Homecoming for the Holidays” and “One Royal Holiday,” the latter co-starring Aaron Tveit and Victoria Clark, who just won another Tony last month.
“There is definitely an audience for the Christmas movies,” Osnes said. “I’ve had such a joy getting to make them. … You get to celebrate Christmas kind of all year round. You’re shooting in July, August, maybe September and then movie comes out at Christmastime and you feel like you’ve gotten to celebrate Christmas for half the year. … I just filmed another Christmas movie a couple weeks ago. I feel so grateful.”
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