Broadway’s sweetheart Laura Osnes talks high-pressure quick changes, her Hollywood doppelganger, and her real-life fairytale

Laura Osnes

Laura Osnes

Transitioning from a reality TV star to an infamous killer to everyone’s favorite princess, two-time Tony nominee Laura Osnes’ career has been anything but uneventful. Stage Door Dish recently sat down with Laura as Broadway’s favorite leading lady revealed her Julie Andrews love, talked being star struck by Katie Holmes and Suri, and told us her dreams of a The Notebook musical opposite Broadway BFF Jeremy Jordan.

SDD: Describe a typical day for you, from when you wake up until when you go to sleep.

Laura Osnes: Oh my gosh, okay. I usually wake up at ten. I like to sleep in because I go to bed late. I’ll maybe have a bowl of cereal or some fruit for like breakfast/lunch or take a shower in the morning. Usually, during the day, lately, there’s been like a press thing or maybe there’s an interview or a CD release thing, I’m going to Barnes and Noble and singing at something or Santino and I are doing,  another interview or something. There’s usually something in the afternoon. And if there’s not, I’ll maybe have one of my girlfriends over and maybe we’ll bake cookies or we’ll meet up for an afternoon coffee and then, let’s see, and then I’ll probably go to the show. I like to be there an hour before. And then we do the show and come home and then my husband and I will watch an episode of something on TV and eat dinner and go to bed.

SDD: And how do you spend your days off from Cinderella?

 Osnes: Mondays, I usually am still doing other press events and concerts and benefits. There’s been maybe five Mondays over the last five months that I’ve actually had off. There’s always something going on or some gala or some event to go to on a Monday night. This past Monday I did have off and my husband and I left after the Sunday night show with two other friends of ours, our best friend couple, and we took a bus and went to our friend’s cabin up in the Catskills and we stayed overnight on Sunday and had all day Monday where we laid by the pool and had guacamole and roasted marshmallows and it was amazing. Occasionally, when I do get a day off, a day completely off, I do have to make the most of it. My husband’s family is in town this weekend, they just got into town today and they’re all seeing the show tonight. They’re in town this Monday, so we’ll be hanging out with them this Monday.

SDD: You’ve had concerts at Café Carlyle and 54 Below that have been recorded and it gave fans a chance to hear you sing that wouldn’t have gotten tickets. What made you decide to record these albums?

Osnes: The Carlyle was my very first solo CD and I thought it would be a really incredible opportunity and an easy way to make an album is to record that concert live. It’s like you put so much work into getting this concert ready for performance and it’s very much my story and it kind of became my baby. So we recorded three of the performances and I have a good friend from Minnesota who helped mix it for me and then we got it mastered here in New York and then Broadway Records did all of the production and marketing and distributing of it. I thought it would be a great opportunity and an easy way to do a first album, instead of having studio time and going into a studio and all that. That worked out great and it was super fun and my husband, Nate [Johnson], is a photographer so he did all the artwork for it. For the second album, I really had no intention of recording that concert but Maury Yeston was so generous and just over the moon with how the concert went at 54 Below that he said, ‘We have to record this.’ I was like, ‘Oh, okay!’ We set aside a day in April, and the concert was in November, and so we waited five months because I was in the midst of starting Cinderella and I knew I couldn’t sing a whole day and record it all during rehearsals and tech rehearsals and all that. So we waited until after Cinderella opened and then went into the studio for a day and then got to record all of those songs that I sang in November with all my original musicians. Then Maury had written two additional songs that were recorded for the very first time on that album, so it’s really exciting and very special. So that second album was all out of Maury’s generosity and excitement about creating an album of that concert.

SDD: Can fans expect a Laura Osnes album with original music in the future?

Osnes: Good question. I do not write music, so if that were to happen I would have to collaborate somebody and write stuff together. I don’t play guitar, I don’t play piano, I don’t really do the singer/songwriter thing. So, probably not, unless someone wants to team up with me and write songs for me.

SDD: Not many actresses under 30 can say that they’ve starred in five Broadway musicals. What has been the most surprising part of your entire Broadway experience?

Osnes: Wow. Surprising part? Gosh, I mean, South Pacific comes to mind with the surprise because I feel like I thought it was such a long shot, that whole audition process. I had four auditions for South Pacific and I didn’t think I was right for the role. I thought I was very young and I was like, ‘Oh, that’s very nice of them to call me in.’ I feel like getting a callback was the shock of my life and the callback was a work session with Bart Sher and I was in the room for like forty minutes and then I had a third audition where I had to be approved by the Rodgers and Hammerstein estate and then my fourth audition was a chemistry test with Paulo Szot who came in to read with me. I remember getting a call from Bart Sher saying, ‘We really like you, but we didn’t think we would go with someone this young and we want to make sure it works.’ So Paulo came in and I read with Paulo and he had just won the Tony Award and I was shaking in my boots and then I found out that I got the role and I just remember that being the most amazing surprise and such an incredible experience getting to do the show. I feel like doing South Pacific, I grew up. I went from girl to woman getting to do that show. That’s one surprise that sticks out to me. And also, I think, the Tony Award nomination for Bonnie & Clyde is the second kind of huge surprise. I wasn’t expecting it at all and watching them on TV, I wasn’t expecting to all of a sudden get a call from my agent that morning to say that I had been nominated for a Tony Award for my performance in a show that closed six months before was just absolutely astounding.

SDD: How was being nominated for a Tony for the second time this year different from the first time?

Osnes: Oh gosh, it definitely doesn’t lose any excitement. It’s such a thrill and such a tremendous honor. I definitely did watch on TV this year, not to say that I was expecting one but the buzz was good, I don’t know, there was a little more expectation this year. The excitement and the honor did not vary or waver at all. It was nice having gone through it once and last year, I wasn’t in a show at the time, so I just got enjoy all of the excitement of Tony season while not having the responsibility of doing a show. This year, I did have to juggle the show schedule and performing on the Tonys as well as being nominated, so I feel like last year actually prepared me for this year. It was more this year, definitely, having to do the show’s schedule at the same.

SDD: Definitely a lot to juggle. Did you identify more with Cinderella or with Bonnie Parker?

 Osnes: I relate more to Cinderella because there were things about Bonnie that I definitely found, you know, she was poet and I actually really enjoy poetry, and Bonnie had dreams of being on Broadway and she was a good student and she liked to sing, so there were definitely things in Bonnie that I could relate to. Obviously, I haven’t killed anybody or carried a gun. I would rather not live her lifestyle of being on the run and all that. But you know, Cinderella is more meek and mild in a way but it’s because of the way she was brought up and her surroundings and the life that she’s living at the moment because when she’s able to break free of that, in our version, she’s known for her kindness and her charity and her generosity and obviously that’s more of the person I want to strive to be than someone like Bonnie Parker.

Laura Osnes with Jeremy Jordan in "Bonnie and Clyde."

Laura Osnes with Jeremy Jordan in “Bonnie and Clyde”

SDD: What has been your favorite role that you’ve played on or off Broadway?

 Osnes: Oh my gosh. That’s so hard. It’s like choosing your favorite child to be honest, because every single one holds a very special place in my heart for a different reason. But Bonnie has to be up there because that was the first role that I created for the first time and I feel like that role was my baby. The role started to be created around me and who I was and what I was bringing to the role and I was a part of it for three years, with two out-of-town runs before coming to Broadway. I have this tremendous sense of ownership over it, which is so special and I’ve never felt that for any other show or any other role. I also played Peter Pan in my high school and I got to fly and I remember that being very special and I played Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz in Minnesota. That experience was just also very special because I think it was at such a time in my life where I was getting ready to pursue theatre. It was a cultivating time where I was a young artist and discovering that this is what I wanted to do with my life so I think that’s why it has a special place. I think with Bonnie, there was something special about the process of Bonnie & Clyde and creating that role that had never been done before. That was very special.

SDD: That sounds like a very cool experience. Speaking of Bonnie & Clyde, if you had the opportunity to work with Jeremy Jordan again, which musical would you most want to be with him in?

 Osnes: Oh gosh, I don’t know! Let me see. I kind of have this dream of doing The Music Man and I feel like he’s a little young for Harold Hill, but maybe we could do it in another six or seven years together. I don’t know. They should make a musical version of The Notebook and we could The Notebook together.

SDD: What have you learned most from working with Santino [Fontana] in Cinderella?

Osnes: Oh my gosh, I have learned so much from Santino. He is so smart. He’s such a strong actor and his voice is just incredible and he takes from Joan Lader so he always comes in and like tells me all these technicalities about the voice that I just don’t know. He’s so smart and super fun to work with and he has this whole other side of them that’s just this writer/producer/director. He totally has that in him. He’s just so multi-talented. It’s been really wonderful, I feel like I’ve learned a lot from him and it’s hard to even put it into words.

SDD: Have you been star-struck by anyone who’s come to see Cinderella?

Osnes: Umm, yes. We met Katie Holmes, obviously, and that was so cool because she brought Suri and Suri was trying on my glass slipper and there are photos of me and Suri just, like, hanging out and she’s wearing my glass slipper. Let’s see, why am I blanking now at who’s come? Joel Grey came to opening, I invited Joel Grey and he brought Bernadette Peters as his guest and I was like, ‘Oh yeah, Joel’s coming with Bernadette, no big deal.’ Let’s see, Salma Hayek came, that was cool. Cathy Bates came, that was cool. I heard Julia Roberts was at the show a couple of weeks ago but she didn’t come backstage, I didn’t get to meet her. And obviously Darren Criss was here, but I’ve known Darren, we’ve worked on a couple little things together, we’ve met a few times. That was very fun to have him come to the show. It’s really cool. It’s crazy to think that they come backstage and they’re excited to meet me?! And I’m like, ‘Well, who am I? You’re like Salma Hayek and I’m excited to meet you!’ It’s kind of cool to get to experience that.

SDD: You’ve had a lot of opportunities in the theatre world. Do you ever imagine how your life would be different if you had taken a role in Avenue Q or were cast in Smash?

Osnes: I haven’t really thought of that. I mean, you always kind of wonder ‘What if?’ but I feel like I’m so happy with my career and the way that it’s gone because I’ve made those choices. So no, I haven’t actually looked back and I have no regrets. I’m not like, ‘Oh, I wish I would’ve done this instead of that or taken that instead of this.’ I feel like everything happens for a reason and I feel like my career has gone the way it has because I made those decisions back then that were difficult, very difficult decisions. It’s the best problem to have to have to choose between two jobs or have to turn down a role that you get. It’s the best problem in the world, but it’s hard. It’s hard to make that decision because you know you’re letting someone down by choosing something else. I couldn’t actually be happier or more pleased with where I am right now, I’m so grateful for the incredible opportunities that I’ve been given so far, so I haven’t really looked back and thought, ‘Oh, I wish I would’ve taken that’ or ‘Oh, I wish would’ve done that instead’ because I feel like everything has worked out just fine.

SDD: How do you choose which projects you attach yourself to?

Osnes: It’s very hard and I’ve sometimes gone against what my agents have advised because my heart has felt differently. I’ve just learned that I have to sit with it a couple of days and really kind of think it over. I mean yes, you weigh the pros and cons but you kind of just have to go with your gut feeling. I’ve learned that for me, I have to trust my heart and then make a decision and just move forward. I feel like after you make a difficult decision, then it’s easy. It’s like the hardest part is making it and then once you move forward with whatever your decision is, you’re just happy that you made the decision. You can’t really look back and think, ‘What if, what if?’ because then you’re not living in the moment. You have to savor everything.

SDD: What is your ultimate dream role?

Osnes: I already said Marian Paroo in The Music Man. I’ve already been Amaryllis and Zaneeta in my lifetime so next time, I want to be Marian. I want to play Mrs. Paroo and the mayor’s wife, Mrs. Shinn. I want to cover all the roles throughout my lifetime. Let’s see, I’m a tapper, so something like Peggy Sawyer [in 42nd Street] would be really fun. To be honest, after doing Bonnie & Clyde and getting to create a role, like that’s the most fun and the most fulfilling and satisfying and I feel like my dream role has not been created yet. I don’t know, maybe it will be The Notebook, maybe it’ll be Anastasia if that ends up happening. Who knows?

SDD: Who, in the Broadway community, would you like to work with that you haven’t yet?

Osnes: Wow, so many people come to mind. I’m trying to choose the best or the most exciting one. I feel like I’ve actually gotten to check a lot of those people off of the list like Sutton [Foster] and Victoria Clark, now getting to work with her, and Joel Grey and Paulo [Szot] in South Pacific and even directors I’ve gotten to work with. I feel so lucky. I haven’t yet worked with legends like Bernadette [Peters] or Patti [LuPone] or even Julie Andrews. It’d be so cool to work with, you know, a true legend in the business and just sit back and watch and learn. It’d be a master class everyday.

SDD: Have you gotten to talk to Julie Andrews about taking on a role that she originated?

Osnes: Actually, we haven’t. They’ve tried to get her to the show a couple of times, they tried to get her to introduce our number at the Tonys and everything just kind of fell through. I know she’s traveling a lot and I’ve actually heard, and I don’t know if this is true or not, that doesn’t always care to see versions of things that she’s worked on. That’s what I’ve heard, I don’t know. She’s just an amazing human being and I can’t wait to meet her someday. I don’t know if she’ll end up coming to Cinderella or if I’ll get to meet her through some other thing. Ted Chapin, who is head of the Rodgers and Hammerstein Association, always raved to me about her and who she is so I’m sure it’ll happen at some point but I haven’t met her yet.

SDD: Who would play you in a movie or your musical about your life? Who would you want to play Laura Osnes?

Osnes: Wow, I don’t know. I used to get a lot that I look like Rachel McAdams and I feel like it was more like five years ago that we used to look like each other, but I feel like she’s amazing. I feel like that could be a good one. She used to be my doppelganger, I think, and she’s a great actress.

SDD: I have some questions from fans. The first one is: what is your audition song?

Osnes: My audition song in high school used to be “Not For the Life for Me,” I mean in college, like my go-to song from Thoroughly Modern Millie. Now I sing two songs that I actually sang on my Carlyle album, “Till There Was You” from The Music Man, because I’m obsessed, and also “All the Things You Are.” Those are my more legit songs and then my up-tempo was always “Not For the Life of Me.”

SDD: What’s it like having the responsibility of doing the Cinderella costume change onstage by yourself every night?

Osnes: It was tough at first, but it just took a little practice getting to finesse it to get it to look as good as it does. But the design behind all of the costumes is, like, foolproof. I mean, Velcro sticks to each other and snaps come undone. I’m never worried that it’s not going to work or I’m going to be left naked onstage, that’s never, never an issue. So now I always get really excited because, you know, we have it down pat. But at the beginning, I remember being like, ‘Okay, I’m going to do it slow. It’s more important that it works and it maybe it won’t be perfect or I won’t look perfect doing it but it’s more important that it works.’ And now that we’ve got it, it’s not that stressful at all. It’s always exciting, though. My heart’s always like, ‘Okay, here we go! This is it!’ It’s very fun now, it’s one of my favorite moments of the show because the audience doesn’t know what to expect. And hearing their reaction, the surprise and awe and wonder, is always really fun.

SDD: Describe yourself in five words or less.

Osnes: That’s hard! I mean, I would hope people would think I’m kind, hospitable…gosh, I don’t want to sound prideful! This is weird, I don’t like this game. Let’s see, sweet, I get that a lot. Inspirational, I get that a lot, and I don’t know, I’m silly, there’s something about me that’s silly but I’m not really silly. Musical, how’s that? I sing all the time.

Laura Osnes with Santino Fontana in "Cinderella"

Laura Osnes with Santino Fontana in “Cinderella”

SDD: What is the best part about being a princess?

Osnes: Getting my own pair of glass slippers and a really pretty ball gown and dancing with the handsome prince. Those are the very surface-y things. Cinderella is known for her grace and her kindness and her generosity and that’s a wonderful thing. I literally get to have a beautiful wedding dress with like a ten-foot train and a veil and it’s really fun.

SDD: That definitely looks very fun to wear every night. What was the last great show you saw onstage?

Osnes: Gosh, I haven’t seen that much recently, obviously with the show’s schedule. I’m like, Newsies? Is that the last great thing I saw? I also saw War Horse. I remember that being captivating, like so wonderful I cried. I feel like it was at least a season ago was the last time I saw a great show. I really haven’t gotten to see Matilda, I haven’t gotten to see Kinky Boots or Pippin yet, all shows that I’m sure are fantastic but haven’t gotten to see them.

SDD: If you could trade places with anyone on Broadway, who would you choose?

Osnes: Gosh…this is hard! Maybe, Santino said this once in an interview, was Sunny the dog in Annie because I’ve heard that the dogs get the royal treatment. They get paid more than the actors do! They get played with everyday and they get treats and they don’t have to sing. I mean, I love singing, but they don’t have to worry about losing their voice.

SDD: They just have to worry about which way to walk, really.

Osnes: Exactly! I’m sure they get a lot of fun attention, those dogs.

Laura Osnes

Laura Osnes

SDD: For sure. How do you stay positively motivated? Physically, mentally, emotionally, your job is very challenging. How do you keep yourself balanced?

Osnes: It’s definitely a lifestyle, doing this show, and I’m not a master at it, I’m still learning how to balance. I feel like it’s so important to have a life outside of the theatre. I’m so glad that I’m married and at night, I come home to Nate and we have our own life. We’re connected to a church here in the city and, you know, we have a whole other community outside of the theatre community. Like I said earlier, it’s important on those days off, even if you’re working or doing some other event, Nate tries to come with me and we make a date night of it. It’s like being intentional about making sure your priorities are in the right place and it’s so easy to get sucked up into the schedule of the theatre or the fame aspect and that’s not why I’m doing this. That’s not why, there are bigger things in life than this, and that’s why I’m so grateful to do what I love and what I’ve always wanted to do. It’s a job, too, and just remembering the grand scheme of things, there’s more to life than making it on Broadway or being in a Broadway show. I think it’s just intentionality, that making sure you have a life outside of the theatre, too, so that actually going to work is the overly fun part of the day because you have other things that you enjoy doing.

SDD: That’s definitely a great way to look at it. If you weren’t an actress, what do you think you would be doing?

Osnes: I think I would be teaching dance at a dance studio somewhere in the Midwest. I also enjoy, like I said earlier, creative writing so maybe I would’ve taken that road and made children’s books, like published or written or illustrated children’s books. Or maybe I would be baking and be a little pastry chef at some bakery somewhere.

SDD: Where do you see yourself 10, 15 years down the line? Do you see yourself on Broadway, maybe starting a family? What do you see in the long-term future?

Osnes: It’s so hard to tell because seriously, six years ago, I never would have guessed that I would be where I am now. Who knows what another six years will bring? You know, I do really love New York. I don’t know if it’ll be the place where Nate and I end up having a family. It seems like raising kids in the city would be kind of hard. Maybe we’ll be in New York another five years from now, in the city and maybe that would be a good time to transition into TV/film. I don’t know if I’ll move to L.A. or maybe outside of the city and commute in if I still have a job here. I think ideally, and we’ve talked about this, our dream would be bi-coastal, like keep a place in New York and maybe raise kids in California and then move as work dictates. It’s hard, I mean, I love, I love theatre. This is what I’ve always wanted to do and I’m most happy and most alive when I’m onstage. I feel like even if we were to leave it for a time, I would always want to come back to it.

The Cinderella cast recording is available on iTunes.

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About Wendi R.

I love Broadway, entertainment, and journalism, and am trying to make a career out of all three. Tweet me: @TheReelWendi

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