Laura Osnes is the first to admit that in the world of theater, she’s a “type” — the ingenue, the sweet, innocent young woman who watches wide-eyed as big things happen to everyone around her. After all, her career started with the lead role in Grease, a part Osnes earned by winning first place as “Small Town Sandy” on NBC’s Grease: You’re the One That I Want! reality show; later, she starred as the charming, naive leads in South Pacific and Anything Goes. Throughout her career, the two-time Tony nominee has embraced the ingenue label with open arms, but the star of the new musical Bandstand is also fully aware that the title isn’t always an easy one to carry.
“As far as roles, I’m very much an ingenue type, and there are good things and bad things about that,” Osnes says, speaking over the phone on a recent April day, before adding with a laugh, “Julie Andrews made a career out of being an ingenue, and I wouldn’t complain if my career path followed hers.”
“At the same time,” she continues, “you want to, even in those ingenue roles, try to bring depth and complexity and not make them one-dimensional. And I feel like these days, that’s the expectation… one-dimensional characters are no longer allowed. So it’s always trying to add depth, even to characters that may have been written years ago as one-dimensional.”
Osnes’ latest role, that of the talented, widowed Julia in Bandstand, could easily be seen as just an innocent newcomer, but the actor is quick to say that the character is so much more than that. “Yes, she is an ingenue, but she’s also very atypical, and her character journey is unlike any character journey I’ve gotten to explore before,” Osnes explains. “It feels like an adventure for me, personally, as an artist.”
Bandstand, about a group of World War II veterans who join together to compete in a star-making radio contest, officially opens on Broadway Apr. 26, but previews started back in March, an experience Osnes says has been “a roller coaster ride of emotions.” She’s no stranger to theater, of course, but Julia is the first character she’s gotten to fully originate.
“I’m the first person to ever set foot in her shoes,” the actor says. “As an artist, creating a role is the most fulfilling thing you can dream of doing, and I’m getting to do that with Julia.”
Osnes is also thrilled, she says, to be a part of a theater season that might be one of Broadway’s busiest yet; from Hamilton to Dear Evan Hansen to Come From Away to The Great Comet, the last few months have seen a massive number of must-see musicals hit the Great White Way, with Bandstand and others adding to the spring line-up.
“It’s really exciting to be a part of a season where so many new things are being created… but we also have our work cut out for us,” Osnes says of the competition between shows. “At the end of the day,” though, she adds, “everyone’s so supportive of everyone else, and we all just feel lucky that we’re getting to do what we love to do in this exciting season of new things.”
And while Bandstand may be the latest Broadway venture for Osnes, it certainly won’t be her last. Although it’s just speculation as of now, she’s one of the names that’s been said to be in contention for the upcoming My Fair Lady revival, set to premiere in early 2018, and while Osnes laughs off the rumors (“All I know is that I sent an email to my agent going, ‘this is happening at Lincoln Center, smiley face, smiley face,’ and she said, ‘I’ll look into it,'” she recalls), she certainly wouldn’t be opposed to giving it a shot.
“Eliza’s a dream role of mine… and I’d be thrilled to return [to Lincoln Center],” she says. But, she quickly adds with another laugh, “obviously after Bandstand has a nice, long run.”
Fingers crossed that’s the case, but there’s no denying that it’d be a total joy to see Osnes one day take on Eliza, one of the most complex and beloved ingenues to ever step foot on the Broadway stage.
Name: Laura Osnes
Then: The two-time Tony nominee made her Broadway debut as Sandy in the 2007 revival of “Grease,” and went on to star in “Bonnie and Clyde” before originating the role of Cinderella on Broadway.
Now: After a run at the Paper Mill Playhouse in New Jersey, “Bandstand” opens on Broadway at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre on April 26, with previews starting March 31.
Elevator pitch: “The show takes place in 1945, right after World War II. This group of vets return from the war and start a swing band to compete in a radio broadcast competition. It goes on to follow how their relationships with each other and the music that they’re creating together help heal them from the struggles and the residual darkness of the war.”
“My character is a war widow. My husband died in battle, and I get roped into being the singer of this band. In essence, yes, it’s a musical band, but it’s also a band of brothers, so to speak. And all the members of the band have something in common: they can finally find unity in each other when they’re feeling ostracized from the rest of society and trying to figure out how to fit back into the world post-war.”
Timing is everything: “I got asked to do a lab of [Bandstand], and I actually turned it down at first because I had a friend’s wedding. And they ended up changing the dates of the lab by a couple of days so that I was available. And, I was like, ‘OK, then I have to do the lab.’”
Onstage live band: “There have been productions that have done it before, shows like ‘Once’ and ‘Company,’ but what’s cool about this one is that all of the actors who play instruments are part of the plot. This is a band that is actually playing clubs and writing music and we’re getting to see the band grow. It’s definitely the most musically complex show that I’ve been a part of.”
Close to Home: “My husband’s grandma was in a swing band with her husband right after World War II. When I was doing readings [for Bandstand], I didn’t really think about it. Then, as I became more involved with the show and they found out it was going to Paper Mill, my husband was, like, ‘well, you know, I think my grandma had a swing band right around that time’ and I was, like, ‘no way!’ I ended up giving her a call. She sent me some pictures and things like that, which I had printed off and put in my dressing room. They’re also going to come out [from Minnesota] for opening night, grandma and grandpa. Grandma — she just had her 92nd birthday, but she has made it to New York probably once a year since we’ve been here. Yeah, she’s still totally kicking.”
Broadway’s Laura Osnes originates the role of Julia Troy in Paper Mill Playhouse’s new musical production of THE BANDSTAND, directed and choreographed by Tony Award winner Andy Blankenbuehler (Hamilton, Bring It On, In the Heights) and featuring book and lyrics by Richard Oberacker and Robert Taylor and music by Richard Oberacker.
Set in 1945, THE BANDSTAND tells the story of a mismatched band of military veterans who join together to compete in a national radio contest in New York City with a prize that will guarantee instant stardom to the winners. But with complicated relationships, the demands of the competition and the challenging after-effects of war, going all the way for a win in the contest seems like a dream that may break the talented musicians.
Today, Osnes speaks exclusively to BWW about her journey back in time in this exciting new musical.
Tell us about the story of THE BANDSTAND and your character in particular?
Well, the story takes place post-World War II, when a group of vets return from fighting in the war and start a band to compete in a radio broadcast competition. My character gets roped into being the singer for the band. Her husband has died in battle and he was friends with one of the guys, so I still kind of fit into the group in that way, and we learn that we all kind of need the music and each other to heal from the residual effects and pain that the war has played in our lives.
The actors all play their own instruments on stage. That must be extremely demanding.
Yes, I am astounded. It’s not enough just to sing, dance and act, all the guys are also playing instruments on stage, BWW Interview: Laura Osnes Journeys Back in Time in Paper Mill’s THE BANDSTANDand Corey [Cott] especially is carrying the show – he never leaves the stage. All of our costume changes are literally 60 seconds long and then we rush back on for the next scene. So he is doing a lot of heavy lifting for the show and just doing it so beautifully. I’m in awe.
I understand you had to learn to play the ukelele for your role?
[Laughing] I did actually! I really just had to learn part of one song on it, so to be honest I’m not completely proficient. But yes, I did have to learn that song on the uke and I’ve been practicing a lot.
Did you do research on the time period to help you create your character?
Absolutely. There are so many resources out there. There’s wonderful movies and documentaries that have been made about the war, which help us get a glimpse into the horrors that these guys experienced. I mean how rare it was to actually survive it, really. Four years of fighting, these guys were considered the lucky ones who made it home, but then they were dealing with all that stuff for the rest of their lives.
And I feel that there’s not really a musical and maybe not even a movie that quite depicts the after effects in this way and shows how to move on from it and how to heal from it and the tactics these guys needed to learn to get back to the lives they had before, which of course is impossible. They will never be unscarred from what they saw and what they went through. And I love that the musical deals with that. And don’t get me wrong, it is a fun, fun musical and it’s a ball, but I love that it actually is real and goes to that place, and doesn’t just skirt over the issues the way a lot of the movies and musicals of the time period did.
And the truth is, the story can be relevant to anyone who has experienced that type of trauma.
Yes. And of course there’s still wars going on today. I mean World War II, it really impacted our country unlike any other war has, and now we are so much more equipped to deal with those things. But people have still lost people or have friends or family members who are in the military and still fighting. It’s so admirable and incredible.
I heard that the book writers didn’t even realize how deep these characters were going to be when they first began to write the story. It was the characters themselves who dictated that to them as they progressed.
Fascinating. Yes that’s cool.
You are working with the wonderful Andy Blankenbuehler. What has that experience been like?
Oh my gosh, I am such a fan of his! I kind of geek out everyday in rehearsal knowing that he is just being a genius putting this thing together. He is just so smart and as a person he is completely in charge, such a wonderful leader, very positive. I always look forward to going to rehearsal because you can tell everything that is going on in his brain, almost like the movie of his mind. He is so creative and he tries to capture that vision and live it out and he’s really succeeding in that. I just think he’s so brilliant, it’s been really fun watching him work and getting to create this with him.
This is your first time doing a Paper Mill production.
Yes and it’s been great. It’s such a little family here. A lot of crew and wardrobe and hair people have been here for years so its cool to kind of step into the family that they have created. And everybody’s been very supportive and wonderful. And Millburn is such a cute little town and we all take a van together, we shuttle from Manhattan to Paper Mill every morning and evening. And the best part is we have real van-bonding time!
This is not your first time originating a role, and of course you have also revised many iconic characters. Do you have a preference or are both just very unique experiences?
Well I think they are very different, but I think every actor is excited to be able to create a role, absolutely. When there’s no pre-conceived notion as to what the role should be or who has played it before, or any expectation to live up to, that is so freeing as an actress. I am getting to establish who this character is for everybody and that’s really exciting. And Corey and I are going to do that together, all of us are, because it’s all brand new. There’s not a movie of it, there’s not a play, there’s not a book. It’s an original idea and its super exciting to be creating that in the room with everybody.
And revivals are great, revivals are fantastic and they have a built-in audience and there’s something special about that as well. I mean for this show, we just hope it finds its audience because nobody knows what it is right now. But hopefully the show speaks for itself and the people who are going to come are going to love it because we all love it like crazy. So yes, while there’s something great to be said about revivals, there’s something really exciting about creating something that’s brand new.
And I think audiences are looking for that these days.
I think so too – I know I am. I mean original musicals, I’m trying to get behind them for sure!
The Bandstand will be performed at Paper Mill Playhouse eight times a week, Wednesday through Sunday. Performance schedule: Wednesday at 7:30pm, Thursday at 1:30pm and 7:30pm, Friday at 8:00pm, Saturday at 1:30pm and 8:00pm and Sunday at 1:30pm and 7:00pm. Tickets are on sale now and range from $29 to $102. Tickets may be purchased by calling 973.376.4343, at the Paper Mill Playhouse Box Office at 22 Brookside Drive in Millburn, or online at www.PaperMill.org. Visa, MasterCard, Discover, and American Express accepted. Groups of 10 or more can receive up to a 40% discount on tickets and should call 973.315.1680. College students can order $20 rush tickets over the phone or in person at the Paper Mill Playhouse Box Office on the day of the performance.
Laura Osnes on Faith and Surrender – Sheri Dew Presents – BYUtv
Laura Osnes (Broadway actress and singer) explains to Sheri Dew the necessity of living with faith and learning what to do next in our personal journey.
See Laura’s full interview on living a faith-filled life in entertainment in the BYUtv special “Sheri Dew Presents: Believers in Hollywood.”
Watch Online on Saturday, Oct. 3 and Sunday, Oct. 4, 2015 on BYUtv: http://www.byutv.org
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?
Laura Osnes: Our sides of the story are different on this one. I’m very professional, so a kiss onstage is a kiss onstage, whether you like the guy or not. That’s how I felt.
Nathan Johnson: It was different for me. It was so funny because I was totally mixing business with pleasure at that point. I really liked this girl, and she was coming down in a wedding gown, and she looked so pretty. I was like, “I’m using this, I’m really digging deep for my character right now.” All the guys in the dressing room were like, “Dude!! That’s amazing! You got to kiss Laura!” They knew, they were heckling me all day. When we actually started dating, I said to Laura, “How about that kiss? That was something right?” And she was like, “What?” and then goes, “Oh, that was business.” I was like, “Yeah, me too Laura, it was totally business.”
LO: (Laughing.) That’s what I said. I’m a professional and I have to do this onstage a lot. I know how to separate myself from it.
When did you have your first off-stage kiss?
LO: Our first on-stage kiss was around Christmastime, and I think our first off-stage kiss was December 23rd. My mom was having a big Christmas caroling party with all of our theatre friends and Nate came over. We were all around the piano singing carols, and that was the night that he kissed me off-stage—at my mom’s house. We were such good friends, and it just molded into more after that kiss.