DIVA TALK: Catching up with Anything Goes Star Laura Osnes

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Laura Osnes
Laura Osnes

LAURA OSNES
Laura Osnes gets the chance to let her soprano soar in the current, terrifically toe-tapping revival of Cole Porter's Anything Goes, which officially opened April 7 at the Stephen Sondheim Theatre. Osnes, who portrays Hope Harcourt, the young woman engaged to Lord Evelyn Oakleigh (Adam Godley) but secretly in love with Billy Crocker (Colin Donnell), wraps her lovely tones around such Porter classics as "Easy to Love," "It's De-lovely" and a particularly dreamy "Goodbye, Little Dream, Goodbye." The production, which is directed and choreographed by Kathleen Marshall, marks Osnes' third Broadway outing, following her debut as Sandy in the recent revival of Grease (a role she won via the NBC reality casting show "Grease: You're the One That I Want") and the Lincoln Center Theater revival of South Pacific, where she drew acclaim for temporarily replacing Kelli O'Hara in the role of Ensign Nellie Forbush. Anything Goes reunites Osnes with Marshall, who directed the aforementioned Grease revival and also served as a judge on the NBC casting show. In fact, Osnes, who had impressed the judges and the TV viewers of that reality program with her sweet-natured personality, her character-driven vocal work and her mega-watt smile, displays all that and more in the Porter musical, which is led by the always-sensational Tony winner Sutton Foster. Earlier this week I had the pleasure of chatting with the upbeat Osnes, who spoke about her latest Broadway adventure, the new musical Bonnie & Clyde and married life; that interview follows:

Question: How did you get involved with Anything Goes?
Laura Osnes: I got a call to audition, and I was in Florida at the time doing [Bonnie & Clyde], so I flew in for a day and went in and I sang my own song and did two scenes from the show and was let go and got the call a couple hours later that I got the role. [Laughs.] I was so excited!

Question: Do you remember what you sang?
Osnes: I sang "Till There Was You" from The Music Man.

Laura Osnes and Colin Donnell perform for the press at an open rehearsal.
photo by Krissie Fullerton

Question: What was the rehearsal process like? Tell me about working with Kathleen Marshall.
Osnes: We had four weeks of rehearsal, and we actually got to rehearse at Studio 54 because it was vacant at the time, and we were actually very excited to be on a real stage and a real theatre—it was kind of fun. And, Kathleen is wonderful. I think this piece is totally up her alley—reviving something old and making it new, but paying homage to what it was before, and the choreography is absolutely fantastic. She does a seamless job of transitioning from scene to song to dance, and so far the dance numbers are bringing down the house, so it's very exciting! [Laughs.]

Question: How would you describe Hope?
Osnes: She is the ingénue in this show, and we kind of play her on the verge of becoming her own woman. I think she is still obligated to fulfill the plans that her mother has for her in marrying this wealthy English man so they can be rich forever, but she is in love with Billy, and I think she is learning her own independence and the power that she has in wanting to please her mother but also wanting to find true love. So that is kind of her battle...She is very sweet, she's romantic. There is a bit of her that is hopeful, but there is a bit of her that also feels bound and kind of trapped by the future that her mother has for her.

Question: What has it been like singing the Cole Porter score?
Osnes: It's great — all these classic songs that everybody knows. Hope's stuff is a little more legit, so I get to kind of use the pretty part of my voice, which is fun. It is easy to sing and fun to sing, and the orchestrations—David Chase did new dance orchestrations for us, and Bill Elliott wrote the arrangements — and they are absolutely fantastic. We have a great band, and it's really, really fun music to sing. Question: Do you have a favorite moment in the show for Hope?
Osnes: Ooh! Gosh, every song kind of has its own special thing. "De-lovely" is obviously the huge sweeping dance number that I get to do, and I get to wear this beautiful Cinderella dress, and so that is really fun because I feel like I haven't gotten a chance to do anything like that yet in any other Broadway show I've done. Also, I have a solo moment in Act 2 where it's kind of the first moment where everyone leaves the stage, and I get to be there alone and sing this beautiful ballad—that's always really special.

Laura Osnes and Colin Donnell in Anything Goes.
photo by Joan Marcus

Question: Tell me about working with your co-stars — working with Sutton Foster and Joel Grey… Colin Donnell…
Osnes: I have always looked up to Sutton. I saw her in Millie ten years ago and have always wanted to work with her and have really admired her talent, and heard she is such a wonderful person — and it's all true. [Laughs.] She leads our show so graciously and gracefully. She does it all — she sings and dances and acts. She is doing such a fabulous job, and it's really an honor to share the stage with her. Joel Grey, obviously, is a legend. [Laughs.] I actually don't have any scenes with him in the show. I haven't gotten to interact with him onstage, but offstage, he is totally great. He is very sweet and endearing. I think he really brings a lot of endearment to the role of Moonface. And then Colin is fantastic. I think this is kind of a breakthrough role for him, and he takes such good care of me onstage as a dance partner and a scene partner. He is very charming and dapper, and I think perfect in this show.

Question: This is your third Broadway show. Did you envision this career when you were doing the NBC reality show?
Osnes: You know, I think I had always hoped for this. In a way, I think the whole reason why I did the reality show was because the prize was a role in a Broadway show. I didn't really care about being on TV or getting recognition from that. The prize was a Broadway show—and that has always been my dream, so I took it very seriously. When I did Grease, I took good care of myself. I treated it like a job. I approached it very professionally because I wanted to make a good reputation and hopefully continue on in the Broadway community and continue to do shows. I found an agent midway through my year-long run at Grease and just started to audition. I fortunately booked South Pacific six months after Grease was over, and I feel like that was a huge turning point in legitimizing myself in the Broadway community, and getting to do that was absolutely amazing. It was such a beautiful show. It was such an honor to be a part of such a well-respected show at such a well-respected theatre. [Laughs.] And, now, getting to originate in another musical and work with Kathleen Marshall again, I feel really, really lucky and really blessed that I've had so many great opportunities, and it is everything I could have hoped for. I couldn't have planned it better myself if I had written it out. It's been really a blessing to continue to work in this really difficult industry.

Question: Are you in touch with Max [Crumm], who did Grease with you?
Osnes: Oh, yes! We are. We're still the best of friends. He actually moved back to the city in January, so I see him a lot since, and we text every couple of days. We are very much in touch.

Osnes and Max Crumm
photo by Scott Gries

Question: Is he still performing? 
Osnes: He went back to LA after Grease. He just did the movie "Easy A." He was in that and was auditioning out there and then decided that he missed the stage too much and wanted to come back. I just saw him in a reading yesterday. I know that he is auditioning and doing readings, and also, I think he is writing a little bit, too. He has a musical that has been working on writing. He is back to attack NYC. [Laughs.]

Question: How do you find doing eight shows a week — how do you find that schedule?
Osnes: Part of it is hard in that, obviously, there is a section of your day where you really have to give it 110 percent, and it's exhausting and there is a lot of pressure because people are paying a lot of money and you have to put it out. You have to dance and sing and there is the pressure to stay healthy and to not get injured and to look beautiful and all of the stuff that comes with that. Right now, I think is the hardest part because we are still rehearsing during the day and performing at night, so it is kind of like doing double duty. Once we open, then it is the eight-show-a-week schedule, but we have our days free and we just get to go to work from 7-11 at night and play dress up. I love doing it, so it's not like it's a drag every day to go to work. Obviously, there are days when you are really tired and don't feel like doing it, but for the most part, I love doing what I do, and it's really a joy.

Question: Do you have any rituals before you go on stage?
Osnes: My wig call is at 7:10, so I get there almost an hour before the show starts. After I get my wig on, I usually go backstage left and I warm up for a while. I do my own ten-minute vocal warm-up/stretch, and I touch up my fingernails if they need repainting. [Laughs.] Then, let's see… There are a few of us who start in the same spot together backstage, so it's always checking in with all of those people and seeing how their day was and seeing how their show is going to be different today and if they remember the new things that have been added and all of that stuff—so not really specific rituals. I share a dressing room with Jessie Stone, and she plays Erma, and we always do a plank—we always do our little exercises—planks, pushups and buns at intermission. Just so the world knows! [Laughs.]

Question: I know you were also part of the Sondheim birthday concert with the Philharmonic. What was that experience like?
Osnes: Oh my gosh, that was a thrill! I felt so honored to even be on the list of star performers that evening. I worked with Lonny Price at the Kennedy Center in 2008, and he called me and asked me to be a part of that concert in that quartet of "You're Gonna Love Tomorrow," from Follies, and I had worked with Bobby Steggert in that Kennedy Center show, so he wanted to pair us together again, so we got to do that, and it was so amazing. I have never performed at Avery Fisher Hall. And the fact that it was filmed and televised on PBS and released on DVD — I haven't gotten to do anything like that, so it was really, really a thrill and so exciting. We got to do two performances, which is always kind of nice. If you do it just once, it is kind of like all the build up and then it is over. At least we got to enjoy it twice. To just have that—I gave the DVD to my family for Christmas, and they were so excited. So it was really a thrill! And to be in the same lineup as Bernadette Peters, Elaine Stritch, Donna Murphy, Audra McDonald, Patti LuPone… they are amazing—all of these Broadway legends — was really, really a treat.

Osnes in South Pacific.
photo by Joan Marcus

Question: Was everyone watching everyone else from backstage?
Osnes: Yeah, kind of. Everyone watched the dress rehearsal, I think the Monday before. Elaine came in her tights and button-up shirt, and she was so funny in her hat. We were all just amazed watching it from the audience, and hearing original companies of Broadway shows re-singing their songs years later. You kind of pinch yourself, saying, "Wow! I get to be part of this. I am really seeing this." It was kind of legendary. During the show, we were kind of put to our dressing rooms so we would be out of the way and there weren't too many people backstage.

Question: Did you get a chance to meet Sondheim?
Osnes: I did. It was quick. It was a shake of hands and going, "Happy birthday, and thank you so much!" That kind of thing.

Question: And now you're at his theatre.
Osnes: Yeah, I know, right! Of all things. They just renamed it. Exactly! [Laughs.] That's funny.

Question: What's happening with Bonnie & Clyde?
Osnes: As of now, everything is scheduled for Bonnie & Clyde to come in this fall. There are not specific dates yet or a specific theatre that has been set, but everything is moving forward. Every time I talk to the producers and the creative team, they are like, "Yup, this fall. November 2011." But nothing is set in stone. So I am still auditioning and putting myself out there, but we've done demos, and they want to do a photo shoot this summer for Bonnie & Clyde. Everything is kind of moving forward, but nothing is set in stone yet. It's very exciting. I love the show, and I feel it's kind of the next step — originating a role in a new Broadway show. The ideal next step for me to continue on in. To be a part of both out-of-town runs and get to create Bonnie from the page has been a completely new and thrilling experience.

Question: I think when we last spoke, you had just gotten married. I was wondering how married life is.
Osnes: Yes! It's fantastic! I feel, again, to have the companionship of a husband in the city, knowing that I am not going through all of this alone — and he is, obviously, my hugest supporter. He's already seen Anything Goes twice and is coming again next week for opening night. He is fantastic and found his place in the city. He is a photographer and has his own studio and we love the city and, again, I feel so lucky to have someone to come home to at night and know that I'm not going through this crazy city and this crazy life alone. It's great. He's fantastic.

 [Tickets for Roundabout's Anything Goes are available by visiting Telecharge.com or calling (212) 239-6200 or (800) 432-7250. Visit roundabouttheatre.org.]

Well, that's all for now. Happy diva-watching! E-mail questions or comments to agans@playbill.com.

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