Laura Osnes at 54 Below
Broadway's Midwestern girl travels down her many roads not taken.
Like the trail of glitter she leaves behind as she weaves through the tables at 54 Below, Laura Osnes' journey to Broadway's inner circle appears to have been paved with gold. From Thoroughly Modern Millie fan girl, to reality-show winner, to Tony-nominated princess, the radiant young actress can seemingly part the seas with her sweet soprano and infectiously bright-eyed disposition.
Still, the business has handed Osnes her fair share of rejection — so she tells us in her newest solo show at the Broadway supper club. Rather than traversing her career's greatest successes, as artists tend to do when they have an hour at the microphone, Osnes take us through her career's greatest almosts — an endearing exercise in self-deprecation that fits her shimmering persona like a glass slipper.
In a field of modern ingenues whose fans enjoy seeing them in real life as the antithesis of their refined onstage personas, Osnes is almost subversive in the way she unabashedly wields a homemade, sparkly wand fashioned from a kitchen spoon and construction paper. The prop makes its way into the show during her perky and vocally spot-on performance of "Popular" from Wicked (Glinda was a role she actually landed for the touring production, but she turned it down to remain in New York). Even without a cruder Mr. Hyde to her perpetually charming Dr. Jekyll, she's managed to land plenty of fans who will revel in hearing what would have been had the actress booked the leading roles in Broadway's The Little Mermaid, Bring It On, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, and Rock of Ages. She amusingly admits that the latter was far outside the wheelhouse of a wholesome Midwestern girl, though she puts admirable power behind her rendition of "Harden My Heart" — absent the vocal grit of Quarterflash's Rindy Ross.
As Broadway's newest Rodgers and Hammerstein baby (a veteran of both South Pacific and Cinderella), Osnes finds her vocal sweet spot in the golden age of musical theater where the classical contours of her voice can have their moment to shine. And shine they do in her rendition of Eliza Doolittle's "I Could Have Danced All Night" from Lerner and Loewe's My Fair Lady, reminiscent both in voice and persona of the great Julie Andrews. Her medley as trophy wife (and extremely high soprano) Anne Egerman from Stephen Sondheim's A Little Night Music will also inspire a petition to cast her in the next revival (she opted out of a production at the White Plains Performing Arts Center to replace Kelli O'Hara as Nellie Forbush in South Pacific on Broadway).
The one and only guest appearance of the evening was made by Kate Monster (star off-Broadway's raunchy puppet show Avenue Q), who was welcomed to the stage with the brief introduction, "This almost happened too." Adding another skill to her résumé, Osnes puppeteers with the best of them while poignantly performing her character's somber ballad, "Fine Fine Line" — one of the few numbers in the musical that's safe for work from start to finish. Not a single hostile grudge, crude gesture, or four-letter word crosses the threshold of the 54 Below stage for the duration of Osnes' performance: Just a bag of props and a signed Thoroughly Modern Millie cast album. If her sunny disposition makes you want to hate her, don't even bother trying. It's impossible.