Laura Osnes
(© Stephen Sorokoff)
Laura Osnes
(© Stephen Sorokoff)
Many of us first encountered Laura Osnes as "Small Town Sandy" on the reality-TV series, Grease: You're the One That I Want, and in a few short years, this talented and beautiful young woman has effortlessly made the transition to "Big City Star," culmnating with her Tony-nominated performance in Bonnie & Clyde.

So, it should be no surprise that she has handled the next rung of the ladder with shocking ease; her debut cabaret show, An Evening With Laura Osnes at the Cafe Carlyle, is not just a highly enjoyable evening, but one that allows Osnes to showcase even more of her versatility and flexibility as a performer.

Entering the room singing the sultry "How 'Bout a Dance" (from Bonnie & Clyde), Osnes immediately gives notice she's more than the eternal ingenue, and continues to remind us. She later projects the needed dash of sensuality to the jazz standard "Fever" and Jay Livingston and Ray Evans' deliciously clever "Femininity," making the men in the room grow slightly weak in the knees. And a pairing of "Born to Entertain" and "Don't Rain on My Parade" shows off a brashness one might not naturally expect from her.

Wisely, though, Osnes does play to her established strengths, with strong renditions of The Sound of Music's "I Have Confidence" (with some revised lyrics) -- which she sang recently at Carnegie Hall -- and South Pacific's "Wonderful Guy" (which she performed on Broadway), as well as exemplary versions of two more soprano standards: "Til There Was You" (from The Music Man) and Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein's glorious "All The Things You Are."

But my favorite parts of the show were hearing Osnes venture into pop territory, as she handles Sara Bareilles' dreamy "Bluebird," Norah Jones' exuberant "Sunshine," and the beautiful "Dream a Little Dream," with complete conviction. Better still were two deeply felt Randy Newman tunes, "I Think It's Going to Rain Today," and "When She Loved Me" (the latter dedicated to her mother, who passed away last year).

Osnes has already advertised that some of her former male co-stars will join her for guest appearances later in the run, but the opening night audience got to witness two special collaborations. First, her adorable and talented husband, Nathan Johnson, came onstage to sweetly duet on Aladdin's "A Whole New World." (The couple met doing a high school production of the show.)

As icing on the proverbial cake, her former Anything Goes co-star Joel Grey -- irrepressible as ever -- joined her for that musical's "Friendship" (made more hilarious as each forgot some words) and a truly heartwarming take on "The Pineapple Song" (from Cabaret) that was a highlight of an already special show.