Laura Osnes left the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point in 2005 to pursue a year-long performance apprenticeship at the Children’s Theatre Company in Minneapolis.
She said it was a difficult choice to leave the program without completing it, but it was ultimately the best choice. Since leaving UWSP, Osnes has experienced a dream not many actresses achieve in their careers, starring as Cinderella on Broadway.
“It was a very hard decision to leave school after being accepted into such a small and prestigious program at UWSP,” said Osnes. “I adored my teachers and felt I had learned so much even after one year in the program, but I knew school would always be there and the offer of work may not.”
In 2006, during her apprenticeship, Osnes met her future husband Nathan Johnson. The two were dating and later engaged while Osnes was competing for a spot on National Broadcasting Company’s reality show, “Grease: You’re the One That I Want.” They married before traveling to New York together.
“I had the rare gift of getting to move to New York with a year-long Broadway contract and a steady paycheck. That never happens,” Osnes said.
In 2012, Osnes helped work to develop “Cinderella” for Broadway. The following year, Osnes performed as the princess.
“I definitely got attached to the show, the role and the incredible cast,” Osnes said.
David Chase, whose current project line up includes NBC’s “Peter Pan Live!,” “Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella,” on Broadway and “The Bandwagon” at New York City Center, offered praise for Osnes’ method.
“We had a marvelous time rehearsing ‘Cinderella,’” Chase said. “Laura was the perfect person to honor the legacy of Rodgers and Hammerstein, trusting their musical and lyrical craftsmanship, but to do it in a way that made it all feel fresh and new.”
Chase is a music supervisor, music director and arranger. He first worked with Osnes on NBC’s “Grease,” and will work with her again on “The Bandwagon” at New York City Center. “The Bandwagon” will have 12 performances this November.
“She quickly overcame any accusations of being a ‘reality-TV’ interloper in the Broadway world, and she did so by working hard, never being a diva, being a delight to work with and delivering impeccable performances,” Chase said.
Chase commends Osnes for practicing flawless musicianship and for utilizing empathy as a performer.
“She is a music director’s dream,” Chase said. “She possesses that ‘thing’ we always look for in performers; that ineffable quality that draws us in. No matter what character she’s playing, her performances are always infused with warmth and humanity.”
Osnes left “Cinderella” in 2013. “Call Me Maybe” singer Carly Rae Jepsen and “Just Keke” talk show host Keke Palmer have followed her leave.
“It came time to move on,” Osnes said. “Five of us principles left the show the same day, so that was really special to get to go out together. We went through so much, over 400 performances.”
Osnes was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Performance by Leading Actress in a Musical for “Bonnie and Clyde” and “Cinderella.”
“I remember I awoke that morning to a call from my agent saying I had been nominated for ‘Bonnie and Clyde,’ and I immediately started crying,” Osnes said. “It’s the moment every actress dreams about. I was just so utterly shocked and unbelievably grateful.”
Osnes has had roles guest starring in television series like “Elementary” and has acted in web-series like “Minute Motivations”, “Submissions Only” and “City of Dreams,” but finds she is biased for musical theater.
“What I personally like about theater, as opposed to maybe television or film, is both the process and the cast camaraderie,” Osnes said. “There’s something about the palpable, anything-can-happen aspect of live theater that I just love.”
Osnes is humbled and excited about her future.
“Five years ago I would have never guessed I would be where I am now, so who knows what another five years may bring,” Osnes said. “Maybe I’ll win a Tony Award by then, have a baby, and quit acting completely to open up my own bakery and keep a few concert gigs going on the side.”
Osnes’ passion for musical theater will sustain her professional career development. Until her next Broadway gig comes along, Osnes has spent time developing a solo cabaret show, teaching master classes, recording demos and participating in readings of new and developing musicals.
“At the core, I’m still doing what is familiar, what I have been doing my whole life, which is musical theater,” Osnes said. “I just love to sing and dance.”
Arts & Entertainment Editor