Regional Reviews: Phoenix
Osnes received her two Tony nominations for Bonnie and Clyde and Cinderella, and her clear, soaring soprano voice was on display throughout this concert. The evening started on a high, upbeat note with a pairing of "Shaking the Blues Away" and "Blue Skies." Osnes spoke about growing up in Minnesota and how she was bitten by the theatre bug at a very young age, playing a Munchkin in a local production of The Wizard of Oz. She remembered looking up at the girl playing Dorothy and thinking that one day she wanted to play that partand she did, once she reached high school.
Rudetsky asked her what it was like appearing on the Grease competition show and she said it was very surreal. She had been playing the role of Sandy in a local production of the musical when she heard about the auditions for "Grease: You're the One that I Want!" She mentioned that all of the contestants lived in a large mansion and that, strangely, they all got along even though they were competing for the two lead roles in the show. She was engaged to be married and her wedding date was set for right after the TV show was supposed to end. However, they added a couple of weeks to the run of the TV show, which meant she had to either drop out or postpone her wedding, and she chose the latter. She also mentioned that she was constantly aware of the pressure of living up to her family and friends' belief in her, and to the expectations of all of the people who were calling in voting for her to win. She then sang a sweet and romantic version of "Hopelessly Devoted to You."
Her next Broadway role was taking over for Kelli O'Hara in the revival of South Pacific. She spoke about how intense the auditions were and how kind her co-star Paulo Szot, who had just won the Tony for his performance, was to her during the final auditions. Her performance of "I'm in Love with a Wonderful Guy" from that show was heartfelt and genuine.
Seth asked about her husband Nathan Johnson, and Osnes said they met when they were both understudies in the Children's Theatre Company of Minneapolis' production of Aladdin. She said they had their first kiss when they both had to go on for the leads, who had a stage accident during one of the performances that sent them both to the hospital. Osnes followed that conversation about her husband with two romantic songs, "If I Loved You" from Carousel, which Osnes sang in a regional production of the show, and "It's De-Lovely," which she sang in the 2011 Broadway revival of Anything Goes.
She also delivered gorgeous renditions of two other songs she sang on Broadway: "Love Will Come and Find Me Again" from Bandstand, an entirely original musical which she said was a thrill to do since she loved the joy of creating a role that no one had ever played before; and a beautiful version of "How 'Bout a Dance" from her Tony nominated performance in Bonnie and Clyde. Other songs included a rousing take on "Not for the Life of Me" from Thoroughly Modern Millie and a modern, beautiful arrangement of "Far from the Home I Love" from Fiddler on the Roof, which she sang in a high school production.
Osnes said that she frequently travels for concerts and shows. She just happened to tell her parents that morning that she was doing a show in Scottsdale, only to find out that her father was in Phoenix for a conference. She added that growing up she often did community theatre shows with her father, so she brought him up to the stage to sing a duet of "Lida Rose" and "Will I Ever Tell You" from The Music Man, which proved to be one of the highlights of the night.
Rudetsky had Osnes talk about "The Princess Party," something she developed with her music director Benjamin Rauhala, which involves concerts performed across the country that she hosts with other women who have played Disney princesses. She then delivered a bright and cheery version of a medley Rauhala crafted entitled "The Cinder-Epic Medley," which combines songs from the three musical versions of "Cinderella": the Disney film; Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine's Into the Woods; and Rodgers and Hammerstein's musical, which Osnes starred in on Broadway, receiving her second Tony nomination.
The concert ended with a moving and soaring rendition of "Journey to the Past" from Anastasia and an encore of "I Could have Danced all Night" from My Fair Lady that sent the audience out on a high note.
Throughout, Rudetsky's theatre knowledge, polished but personal presentation, and crackerjack wit provided many informal and humorous moments in the concert; he frequently referred back to Osnes tripping on the Tonys both times she performed and how he watched and rewatched the video of it on YouTube. Osnes was entirely engaged and generous, not just to the audience but also to Rudetsky, commenting on how great his piano accompaniment was, even though they only rehearsed that afternoon and hadn't done a concert like this in more than a year.
The beauty of the concerts in the "Seth Rudetsky Concert Series" is that they provide enjoyable songs performed by Broadway performers along with engaging conversations about their experiences. The Scottsdale Arts venue has unobstructed views and clear sound, which adds to the enjoyment and makes these evenings of songs and stories incredibly entertaining.
Laura Osnes performed January 24, 2020, at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, 7380 E 2nd St, Scottsdale AZ. Information for upcoming concerts at the SCPA can be found at http://www.scottsdaleperformingarts.org.