Laura Osnes, born in the ’80s, opened her cabaret debut at the wildly respected Carlyle on Tuesday night. The poky town girl from Minnesota dazzled the stage, charmed critics (even Michael Musto had a face of glee) in the audience and allowed her husband to visibly fall in love with her all over again.
Known for her work on the Broadway stage, Osnes gave shivers of relish to audiences in the last two years as Sandy in "Grease" and Bonnie in "Bonnie and Clyde," for which she deftly received a Tony Award nomination. Tuesday night was no exception as the cantor of well-loved hits came draping from her almost Angelina Jolie-like lips.
Osnes starred as Hope Harcourt in the Broadway revival of "Anything Goes" in 2011 and received nominations for the Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical, the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical and the Astaire Award for excellence in dance. Celebrated and highly followed, the entertainer oozed her natural ability with hints of commendation. Her beauty, her utterance and her love for what she does appeared obvious as she, dressed in simple black, took the stage.
Her song list was a medley of fluid melodies aimed to delight the ever-critical audience. "Fever" was delivered with a buzzing innocent sexuality, while "Femininity" aroused her enigmatic side as a performer. But her almost eulogy to her mother "When She Loved Me" cracked the floor boards open.
She also performed a fun "Till There Was You", an intense "All The Things You Are" and a smiley "A Wonderful Guy" and "All the Things You Are," plus a calmative "Sunrise" by Norah Jones.
A surprise bouquet of captivation came with two duets, one with her doting husband Nathan Johnson (whom she married in 2007) singing "A Whole New World" from Disney’s "Aladdin," with just enough corny love ballad finesse to be almost caricature-ish as it, unbeknownst to them, made some fun at all those terribly love sick moments.
Her second duet was with the iconic Joel Grey, who to the crowd’s hosanna and her own delight, sang "Friendship" and rascally engaged in a love/hate wrangle of niceties. Grey, so clearly reminiscent of "Cabaret," leaned into the next song with cherished allure as he pretended to gift Osnes with a Tiffany’s box that then contained no diamonds whatsoever but an ever-prized pineapple.
Despite the overstated references Osnes attracts as "an optimistic Julie Andrews" or "Barbara Streisand wanna-be," the singer does not compete with either of those greats. She has found a new niche for herself where she can allow her almost-freak self to come out to play, gently, but still in the open. Next Osnes will be the ultimate princess in "Cinderella" on Broadway in the upcoming season and she will be focusing herself in her beloved hometown of New York.
The show, directed by Joe Langworth, felt deserving of The Carlyle and Osnes impressed with her girly love letters sung from the tiny stage with her fertile talent, yet to bud.
by Laura Osnes
Laura Osnes performs through June 30 at Café Carlyle at the Carlyle Hotel, 35 East 76th Street, Manhattan; (212) 744-1600; thecarlyle.com.