A Fine Showmance: Laura Osnes and Nathan Johnson Talk About the On-Stage Kiss That Changed Everything and Broadway Double-Dates
As the star of Broadway productions like Bonnie & Clyde, South Pacific, Anything Goes and Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella, Laura Osnes has been romanced by some of Broadway’s most swoon-worthy leading men: Jeremy Jordan, Paolo Szot, Colin Donnell, Santino Fontana… But her heart was captured long ago—before she won the reality show competition “Grease: You’re the One That I Want,” before she was nominated for a Tony Award and before she became Broadway’s sweetheart.
Back in 2005, when Osnes was understudying the role of Jasmine in the Minneapolis Children’s Theatre Company production of Disney’s Aladdin, she fell for Aladdin’s understudy Nathan Johnson. In a rare twist of theatrical events, the two ended up going on together after the actors playing Aladdin and Jasmine collided on stage and had to go to the hospital. It turned out to be a very happy accident for Johnson and Osnes, who shared their first of many kisses onstage that night.
A year-and-a-half later they were married and moved to New York, where Osnes made her Broadway debut in the 2007 revival of Grease opposite her fellow “YTOTIW” winner Max Crumm. Osnes’ real-life leading man moved off the stage and into the photography studio. He now shoots production stills and promotional photos for Broadway shows (including the scintillating shots for Bonnie & Clyde) as well as album covers and campaigns like Broadway for Ted Baker. Before setting off to celebrate Christmas with their families, the couple sat down with Playbill.com to talk about their holiday traditions, that fateful first kiss and how Johnson fends off Osnes’ onstage leading men.
You shared your first kiss onstage, as Aladdin and Jasmine. Was this kiss different than any other on-stage kiss you’d had before?
When did you have your first off-stage kiss?
Lyric Opera of Chicago announced today that Laura Osnes will star as Julie Jordan in Lyric’s new production of Carousel, on stage April 11 through May 3, 2015. Osnes comes to Lyric following her Tony-nominated role in Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella on Broadway. She joins Steven Pasquale, who stars as Billy Bigelow, in this new production directed and choreographed by legendary Tony, Emmy, and Olivier Award winner Rob Ashford.
“We are so thrilled to add the exceptional Laura Osnes to our Carousel cast as Julie Jordan,” noted Anthony Freud, Lyric’s general director. “Her multiple Tony nominations speak to her depth and breadth as a singing actress, and she provides the perfect complement to fellow Broadway star Steven Pasquale’s Billy Bigelow.”
Osnes was most recently seen on Broadway in the title role of Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella (Drama Desk Award; Tony, Outer Critics Circle, and Drama League Award nominations). Osnes also starred in Bonnie and Clyde (Tony Award nomination), creating the role at Asolo Repertory Theatre and La Jolla Playhouse (San Diego Theatre Critics Circle Award). She appeared as Hope Harcourt in the Tony-winning revival of Anything Goes (Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle, and Astaire Award nominations), Nellie Forbush in Lincoln Center’s production of South Pacific, and made her Broadway debut as Sandy in the most recent revival of Grease. Other New York credits include The Threepenny Opera at the Atlantic Theater Company (Drama Desk Award nomination); Encores! productions of The Band Wagon, Randy Newman’s Faust, and Pipe Dream; and a one-night-only concert of The Sound of Music at Carnegie Hall. On television, Osnes has been seen in the CBS series Elementary, the HBO pilot The Miraculous Year, Sondheim: The Birthday Concert at Avery Fisher Hall, HBO’s documentary Six By Sondheim, and the Kennedy Center Honors salutes to Barbara Cook (2011) and Dustin Hoffman (2012). Her many concerts and cabarets include performing with Michael Feinstein, the New York Philharmonic, the New York Pops, and the Pasadena Pops; and appearing in such venues as Carnegie Hall, The Café Carlyle, 54 Below, NJPAC, Las Vegas Smith Center, and the LA County Arboretum. In addition to being heard on several cast recordings, Osnes has two solo albums, Dream A Little Dream: Live at The Café Carlyle and If I Tell You: The Songs of Maury Yeston.
Previously announced cast members for Carousel are Steven Pasquale as carousel barker Billy Bigelow and Denyce Graves as Nettie Fowler. Pasquale was most recently seen on Broadway in The Bridges of Madison County with Kelli O’Hara and is currently appearing on CBS’s The Good Wife. Internationally acclaimed opera star Denyce Graves will make her musical theater debut with this production, singing the iconic “You’ll Never Walk Alone.” Additional casting will be announced at a later date.
Carousel will be conducted by Broadway veteran David Chase (debut), who will lead members of the Lyric Opera Orchestra and Chorus, and will be directed and choreographed by Rob Ashford, who made his Lyric debut in the 2013-14 season directing a new production of Rossini’s The Barber of Seville. Ashford recently co-directed Macbeth at the Park Avenue Armory with Kenneth Branagh. He was also stage director for NBC’s The Sound of Music Live! and Peter Pan Live! Chase is a regular collaborator with Ashford; he was music director for The Sound of Music Live! and Peter Pan Live!, as well as the recent Broadway revival of Loesser’s How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, directed and choreographed by Ashford. Artist Paolo Ventura will make his theatrical debut as set designer. Tony Award-winning Catherine Zuber is costume designer, returning to Lyric after her company debut with Ashford’s Barber. Lighting will be designed by Neil Austin, and Michael Black will be chorus master.
Carousel is the third Rodgers and Hammerstein musical to be presented as part of Lyric’s American Musical Theatre initiative. The King and I and South Pacific follow in the 2015-16 and 2016-17 seasons, respectively. Past productions were Oklahoma! in the 2012-13 season and The Sound of Music in the 2013-14 season.
Carousel opens Saturday, April 11 and runs through Sunday, May 3, 2015 (including 25 performances and one matinee preview performance on April 10) at the Civic Opera House, 20 N. Wacker Dr., Chicago. Tickets start at $29, and are now available at lyricopera.org/carousel or at 312-827-5600.
The new Lyric Opera production of Carousel is generously made possible by The Negaunee Foundation, an Anonymous Donor, Robert S. and Susan E. Morrison, Mr. and Mrs. J. Christopher Reyes, Liz Stiffel, Mrs. Herbert A. Vance and Mr. and Mrs. William C. Vance, and Jim and Vicki Mills/Jon and Lois Mills.
Ted Sperling will conduct the New York Philharmonic and vocalists Laura Osnes and Santino Fontana in A Broadway Romance, a one-night-only Valentine’s Day concert, Saturday, February 14, 2015, at 8:00 p.m. The program will feature songs from popular musicals ranging from Bernstein’s West Side Story and Gershwin’s Girl Crazy to Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Carousel and Stephen Sondheim’s Company, woven together to tell a unified narrative of a romance from beginning to end, from meeting to first date to falling in love to marriage.
Ted Sperling led the Philharmonic in a similar program, Broadway Night with the Philharmonic, during its July 2013 Bravo! Vail residency, with vocalists Betsey Wolfe and Andrew Samonsky. During the following summer’s residency, Mr. Sperling led the Philharmonic with Laura Osnes and Santino Fontana – who starred together on Broadway in Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella – as well as Christine Ebersole in Broadway Night with the Philharmonic: The Music of Frank Loesser. Ted Sperling most recently appeared with the Philharmonic conducting and directing its semi-staged production of Kern & Hammerstein’s Show Boat, in November 2014.
Ted Sperling’s recent collaborations with the New York Philharmonic include Show Boat in November 2014; Broadway Night with the Philharmonic at Bravo! Vail in July 2013; An Enchanted Evening with Paulo Szot, the 2013 Spring Gala; and Anywhere I Wander: The Frank Loesser Songbook, the 2012 Spring Gala. He conducted Brian Stokes Mitchell in the original Broadway productions of Kiss of the Spider Woman and Ragtime. Mr. Sperling was recently appointed the artistic director of the Collegiate Chorale; he has led the chorale in performances of The Firebrand of Florence, The Grapes of Wrath, The Mikado, and Song of Norway, all at Carnegie Hall. This season he will also be performing with the Chicago, Pittsburgh, Westchester, Phoenix, and Detroit symphony orchestras, as well as the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. As a regular guest at 92nd Street Y’s Lyrics and Lyricists series, Mr. Sperling hosted a program about Fanny Brice in May 2014. He has frequently worked with Victoria Clark, Deborah Voigt, Audra McDonald, Nathan Gunn, Paulo Szot, Kelli O’Hara, and Vanessa Williams. Mr. Sperling won the 2005 Tony and Drama Desk Awards for his orchestrations of The Light in the Piazza, for which he was also music director. Other Broadway credits include the Tony Award-winning revival of South Pacific, Guys and Dolls, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, The Full Monty, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, Kiss of the Spider Woman, Angels in America, My Favorite Year, Drood, Les Mise?rables, and Sunday in the Park with George. Ted Sperling was an original cast member of the Broadway musical Titanic, playing bandleader Wallace Hartley. His Off-Broadway credits include A Man of No Importance, Wise Guys, A New Brain, Saturn Returns, Floyd Collins, Falsettoland, and Romance in Hard Times. Mr. Sperling’s directing credits include the World Premieres of The Other Josh Cohen, See What I Wanna See, Charlotte: Life? Or Theater?, and Striking 12, as well as a revival of Lady in the Dark. For the Public Theater, he directed gala performances of The Pirates of Penzance with Kevin Kline, Glenn Close, Martin Short, and Eric Idle, and Cabaret with Anne Hathaway, Harvey Feierstein, Linda Lavin, Rau?l Esparza, and Eddie Redmayne. He has conducted the scores for the films The Manchurian Candidate and Everything Is Illuminated, and directed the short film Love Mom, starring Tonya Pinkins. He is creative director of the 24 Hour Musicals and a consultant to the Public Theater.
Laura Osnes was most recently seen on Broadway as the title role in Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella (Drama Desk Award; Tony, Outer Critics Circle, and Drama League Award nominations). She also starred in Frank Wildhorn’s Bonnie and Clyde (Tony Award nomination), creating the role of Bonnie at Asolo Repertory Theatre and La Jolla Playhouse (San Diego Theatre Critics Circle Award). She appeared as Hope Harcourt in the Tony-winning revival of Cole Porter’s Anything Goes (Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle, and Astaire Award nominations), Nellie Forbush in Lincoln Center’s production of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s South Pacific, and in her Broadway debut as Sandy in the most recent revival of Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey’s Grease. Other New York credits include Weill’s The Threepenny Opera (Drama Desk Award nomination), directed by Martha Clarke at the Atlantic Theater Company; Encores! Productions of Arthur Schwartz’s The Band Wagon, Randy Newman’s Faust, and Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Pipe Dream; and a one-night-only concert of The Sound of Music at Carnegie Hall. On television, Ms. Osnes has been seen on the CBS series Elementary, in the HBO pilot The Miraculous Year (written by John Logan and directed by Kathryn Bigelow), HBO’s documentary Six by Sondheim, and the Kennedy Center Honors salutes to Barbara Cook (2011) and Dustin Hoffman (2012). Her many concerts and cabarets include performing with Michael Feinstein, the New York Pops, and the Pasadena Pops and appearing in such venues as Carnegie Hall, The Cafe? Carlyle, 54 Below, NJPAC, Las Vegas Smith Center, and the Los Angeles County Arboretum. In addition to being heard on several cast recordings, Laura Osnes has two solo albums, Dream a Little Dream: Live at The Cafe? Carlyle and If I Tell You: The Songs of Maury Yeston. Ms. Osnes’s gowns are provided by Dennis Basso. Laura Osnes has previously appeared with the New York Philharmonic as part of SONDHEIM: The Birthday Concert (also aired on PBS) in 2010, and concert celebrating Frank Loesser during the Orchestra’s Bravo! Vail residency in July 2014.
Santino Fontana was nominated for a 2013 Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical for his work in Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella. He was most recently seen as Moss Hart in Act One at Lincoln Center Theater. Other Broadway appearances include Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest (Clarence Derwent Award), Neil Simon’s Brighton Beach Memoirs (Drama Desk Award), Elton John’s Billy Elliot, and Stephen Sondheim’s Sunday in the Park with George. Off-Broadway he appeared in Stephen Karam’s Sons of the Prophet at the Roundabout Theatre (Lucille Lortel and Obie Awards) and Harvey Schmidt’s The Fantasticks, as well as Andrew Grosso and The Essentials’ Perfect Harmony, for which Mr. Fontana served as co-writer. For television, Mr. Fontana recently wrapped filming for Amazon’s Mozart in the Jungle, and co-stars in Showtime’s upcoming Crazy Ex Girlfriend. His other television credits include The Good Wife, Nurse Jackie, A Gifted Man, Royal Pains, and Made in Jersey. On film, Mr. Fontana will star in the upcoming Universal film The Nest alongside Tina Fey and Amy Poehler; he also appeared in Disney’s Frozen, Paramount’s Jack Ryan, and Nancy, Please (Tribeca Film Festival 2012). He has also appeared on the web series Submissions Only. After graduating from the Guthrie/University of Minnesota’s Actor Training Program, Santino Fontana played the title role in Hamlet at the Guthrie at age 23. He previously appeared with the Philharmonic during its Bravo! Vail residency in July 2014, in a program celebrating the work of Frank Loesser conducted by Ted Sperling.
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This February, two-time Tony Award nominee Laura Osnes (Cinderella, Bonnie & Clyde) will lead the cast of workshop presentations of the new Broadway-bound musical Somewhere in Time, based on the novel by renowned author Richard Matheson (I Am Legend, What Dreams May Come) and the subsequent hit film starring Christopher Reeve, Jane Seymour and Christopher Plummer.
Directed and choreographed by Tony Award nominee Dan Knechtges (…Spelling Bee, Xanadu), the workshop presentations are set for Friday, February 13 in midtown Manhattan.
In Somewhere in Time, young playwright Richard Collier has an encounter with a mysterious old woman on the opening night of his earliest success; she entreats him, to his bewilderment, to “come back to me.” Several years later, with his life and career in disarray, he seeks quiet and contemplation and checks in to a storied hotel from his youth. But his stay at the hotel turns into the journey of a lifetime as he unravels history — and time — to discover a powerful but perhaps impossible love with Elise McKenna (Osnes), an elusive and captivating actress from the early twentieth century.
The 1980 film of Somewhere in Time is a romantic classic, beloved by several generations of moviegoers. This world premiere musical adaptation invites those who love the story, and those discovering it for the first time, to experience its magic with original music by Doug Katsaros, lyrics by Amanda Yesnowitz and book by Ken Davenport.
Laura Osnes landed her first Broadway role playing Sandy in the most recent revival of Grease! and quickly became a Broadway favorite, starring as Nellie Forbush in the Lincoln Center Theatre production of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s South Pacific and as Hope Harcourt in the Tony-winning revival of Anything Goes. She earned Tony Award nominations for both title characters in Bonnie & Clyde and Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella.
Complete casting will be announced soon.
Dan Knechtges’ directing and choreography credits on Broadway include The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee (Tony Award nomination), 110 in the Shade, Xanandu, Sondheim on Sondheim and Lysistrata Jones.
The creative team for Somewhere in Time will also include set design by Eugene Lee, costume design by Linda Cho, lighting design by Christopher Ackerlind, orchestrations by Doug Katsaros and musical direction by Paul Staroba.
Somewhere in Time had its world premiere production at Portland Center Stage in May 2013.
Somewhere in Time is produced by Ken Davenport, Hunter Arnold, Joan Raffe & Jhett Tolentino, Carl Daikeler, Michael DeSantis, Jeffrey Fergus, Kari Lynn Hearn, Adam Levowitz and Kat White.
For more information, visit www.SomewhereInTime.com.