|Santino Fantana and Laura Osnes in Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella. Photo: Carol Rosegg|
God’s Light Shines Bright on Broadway
By Lauren Yarger
Growing up in a suburb of Minneapolis, Laura Osnes wished that one day her dream of singing on a Broadway stage would come true. Little did she know it would -- and with a Fairy Godmother to boot.
She worked hard through high school and landed roles in musicals with performances schedules that kept her from being able to attend youth group at Oak Hills Church, affiliated with the Assemblies of God, as often as she would have liked. But when God is part of your dream, showtunes like “It’s Possible,” take on new meaning, Osnes, 27, has found.
In the latest leg of a fairytale-like journey, Osnes find herself starring eight times a week on a Broadway stage as Cinderella. She was selected for the role while this newest version of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s classic with favorite tunes like “Ten Minutes Ago,” “In My Own Little Corner” and “A Lovely Night” was still in development for its upcoming Broadway run.
The musical had been presented on television in several versions beginning in 1957 with Julie Andrews in the lead. Versions starring Leslie Ann Warren and pop star Brandy followed, but the show never had played on Broadway until this March. For this production, with a book updated by four-time Tony Award ® nominee Douglas Carter Beane to appeal to a younger generation, producers tapped Osnes.
For the beautifully-voiced actress, Cinderella is her breakout role (she was nominated for a Tony). Osnes first burst onto the New York Theater scene in 2007 when she competed on the nationally televised search “Grease: You're the One that I Want” which landed her the role of Sandy on Broadway. She wasn’t sure she could do it, but God told her, “Go and I’ll give you what you need.”
The opportunities didn’t stop with Grease. She took over the role of Nellie Forbush in South Pacific at Lincoln Center, then was cast opposite Sutton Foster in Anything Goes before landing the lead in the new Frank Wildhorn musical Bonnie & Clyde, which had a short run on Broadway. It ran long enough, however, to earn Osnes a Tony Award ® nomination for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical.
This show offered her some challenges while it was in development. Osnes was required to take the Lord’s name in vain (Three “GDs,” as she puts it) and nudity was being considered. Every Christian in the industry eventually feels pressure to be something they’re not or to do something that makes them uncomfortable, she said. She herself had turned down a role in Broadway’s Avenue Q, the racy Sesame Street lookalike show featuring puppets, because she wasn’t comfortable with its content. Those decisions can result in some difficult conversations, but “it’s so important to stay true to who you are,” she said. For Osnes, that means no nudity.
“Everybody is different and God has grace for it all, but that’s a line for me.”
Her prayers were answered for Bonnie & Clyde: the language and possible nudity were cut from the show before it hit Broadway.
Praying about everything has always been a part of life for her. She accepted the Lord when she was 3 or 4 (her dad was a Lutheran minister) and she attended her dad’s church after her parents divorced. She reaffirmed her faith as an adult.
“People know what I believe. I just don’t push it on them” she said. Not having the gift of evangelism, she feels called to have “compassion and love for everyone one,” she said as we chatted in her dressing room at the Broadway Theatre, surrounded by her costumes and props like a large pumpkin and a rubber chicken that had been cut from the show.
Sometimes she feels judged for being “so sweet and so conservative,” she said. The word “Christian” can get “such a bad rap.” She tries to use words that best communicate her faith, like “contemporary” or “worship.”
“It’s not about religion; it’s about relationships.”
She attends C3 Church Manhattan, where her husband, Nate, plays in the worship band. She also enjoys fellowshipping with other believers in Cinderella and in other shows in New York.
“There are more of us than you might think,” she said. “God has brought a lot of us to be a light.”
She takes that to heart and knows that she is an example for the young girls waiting for her autograph at the stage door.
“I’m so blessed,” she said. “So many doors have opened for me. I’m getting paid to wear a ball dress on a stage.”
Yes, some fairytales do come true.
You can find more information about the show and tickets and listen to Osnes sing “In My Own Little Corner” at http://www.cinderellaonbroadway.com/. Some “Rush” tickets priced at $32 are available on the day of the show at the Box Office, 1681 Broadway to students with valid student IDs.
You can follow Osnes' backstage blog The Princess Diary here: http://www.broadway.com/videos/series/the-princess-diary-backstage-at-cinderella-with-laura-osnes/
Read the review of the show here: