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INTERVIEW: Laura Osnes Enters Café Society

The Tony Award nominee discusses her new cabaret show at the Café Carlyle and her past and future Broadway experiences. logo
Laura Osnes
(© Tristan Fuge)
Laura Osnes has become one of Broadway's busiest actress in the past several years, starring in Grease, South Pacific, Anything Goes, and most recently, Bonnie and Clyde, for which she received a 2012 Tony Award nomination for Best Actress in a Musical. And she's set to star later this season with Santino Fontana in Mark Brokaw's new production of Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella.

On June 19, Osnes is making her cabaret debut at the Café Carlyle, with a live recording of the engagement set to be released in September by Broadway Records. TheaterMania recently spoke to Osnes about the engagement -- during which she will be joined by such former co-stars as Jeremy Jordan, Tom Wopat, and Max Crumm -- as well as her past and future Broadway experiences.

THEATERMANIA: What is it like to play the Café Carlyle and to have your first solo album recorded there?
LAURA OSNES: It's all simply amazing. Getting to perform at the Carlyle, following in the footsteps of women like Elaine Stritch, Barbara Cook, Christine Ebersole, Kelli O'Hara, and so many others, is nothing short of a dream come true. I've given it a lot of thought and preparation. It's my first time and I want to do it right.

TM: What can you tell us about the show?
LO: I'm opening with my big Bonnie and Clyde number "How 'Bout a Dance?" and doing tunes I love to sing, including those from shows I've done as well as a couple of dream roles I'd love to play, such as Marian in The Music Man. I'm particularly fortunate to have Fred Lassen as my music director. He's going to be the significant energy onstage. It's certainly going to be an intimate experience, almost like having everyone sitting around the piano in your living room -- if I ever had a living room like that!

TM: Were you surprised that Bonnie and Clyde, a musical that was derided by the majority of critics, received so much recognition at award nomination time?
LO: We all felt we were in a good show. When the reviews came out, and then when the closing notice was posted the weekend after we opened, we didn't see it coming. The audience buzz was great during previews, so then to get slammed with such negative reviews was a shock. For an entire month, we tried to soak it in, but it wasn't easy. I can't say enough wonderful things about working with Jeremy Jordan. We've become the dearest of friends and I can't believe he's taking his one night off from Newsies on June 28 to come and sing with me at the Carlyle.

TM: You're also very close with Bonnie & Clyde composer Frank Wildhorn. How did you two first meet?
LO: I actually auditioned for his musical Wonderland. I grew up listening to Frank's music, especially Jekyll and Hyde and The Scarlet Pimpernel. He liked the breathy quality my voice has, but didn't think I was right for Alice. He thought I might be great for Bonnie and Clyde, so I began working with him for an audition for the creative team. Frank's music was the thing that attracted me to the show. The music felt just where my voice fits, lands, and lives. It was like it was written for me. It's still amazing for me to say that we're good friends.

TM: How do you feel now about auditioning?
LO: I don't think auditioning will ever faze me again after the Grease TV experience. It was fierce. There were thousands of people auditioning in four cities. I flew from home in Minneapolis to audition in L.A. I waited in line all day. I arrived at 7am and wasn't seen until 6pm.

TM: You won the role. And now you're going from Sandy to Cinderella! How exciting is that?
LO: It's super exciting. We're preparing for a workshop in July. I know it's going to be an incredible experience. It's every girl's childhood fantasy, and now, it will be coming true for me. I'll be singing all those wonderful songs, especially "In My Own Little Corner," "Impossible," "Ten Minutes Ago," and "Do I Love You Because You're Beautiful?" Most incredible, though -- and also quite intimidating -- is to be following in the footsteps of one of my idols, Julie Andrews!

TM: What does it feel like to have worked so hard toward your goals and to have such success already?
LO: It's beyond my wildest dreams. I'm doing what I wanted to do since I was a young girl. I pinch myself every day to make sure it's true.

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