Ever since Laura Osnes made her Broadway debut as Grease’s adorable Sandy—a role she landed after winning reality TV show Grease: You’re The One That I Want!—she’s been something of a career ingénue. She stepped into the role of Ensign Nellie Forbush in South Pacific, and after a departure to play gun-toting Bonnie Parker in Frank Wildhorn’s Bonnie & Clyde in regional theaters, Osnes is once again tapping into her good-girl image as wide-eyed Hope Harcourt in the Roundabout Theatre Company's revival of Anything Goes. Osnes recently talked with Broadway.com about sharing a stage with her musical theater hero and shaking off the stigma of reality TV.
You seem so perfectly suited to Hope Harcourt. Have you had your eye on this role?
No, in fact I’d only ever seen Anything Goes once at a community theater. But leading up to the auditions, friends kept saying, “Are you going in for that? You would be perfect for Hope!” Then I auditioned and got the call two hours later that I had gotten the role. So I was like, “OK, OK, thank you everyone!”
What are you loving most about playing Hope?
I’m really trying to find the most I can in her. She is very much the straight man in the show, and I feel like people say, "There’s only so much you can do with Hope." But it’s an inner struggle for her throughout the show, between loving Billy and wanting to please him and also loving her mother and wanting to please her. Of course, I also love getting to sing gorgeous songs and wear gorgeous dresses. I feel like Ginger Rogers.
This is a reunion for you and Grease director Kathleen Marshall, who was also a judge on your reality show.
I’m so grateful to be working with her again. She’s such a positive spirit to have at the helm of our ship. When I walked into the audition, I was thinking, “What am I possibly going to do that she hasn’t already seen me do on TV or in Grease?” But we had fun—and she didn’t make me dance!
It sure seems like everyone is having fun on stage.
Kathleen will say, “The more fun you guys have, the more fun we [in the audience] have,” so we do focus on finding the fun. Not that it’s hard! It's a bit of a madhouse backstage. Colin [Donnell] is running all over the place in his stage disguises, and then there’s Sutton Foster, of course, in all her gorgeousness and glory.
What’s it been like working with Sutton?
She’s a dream. She’s such a star, but such a normal person. She brings cupcakes! And she’s so talented. I get to sit and watch “Blow, Gabriel, Blow” every night, and I still can’t believe I’m sharing the stage with her. She’s been one of my idols for so long; it’s amazing to do a show with my all-time musical theater hero.
You and Sutton played Bonnie Parker in two different Bonnie & Clyde musicals. Have you compared notes?
We haven’t yet. It’s so funny, people who see Anything Goes would never guess that Hope and Reno Sweeney would end up playing the same part in other shows. Her brother Hunter wrote the Bonnie and Clyde musical she did a reading of; I talked to him about it, and I think his is more of a funny take on it, while ours was very much the dramatic love story.
An outlaw like Bonnie Parker seems like quite a departure from your previous roles.
It’s like night and day, right? I get to bring out my dark side in Bonnie, which I didn’t get to do with Sandy or Nellie. I shoot a gun in the show, so I went to a shooting range and I shot one for the first time. Completely different from Hope. Jeremy Jordan, who played Clyde when we did the show in Florida, had never shot a gun either, so we went out together with my husband, Nate, who has had some experience. We wanted to look like we knew what we were doing.
How do you and Nate handle separations when you're on the road?
We have a deal where we try not to go longer than three weeks without seeing each other. As wonderful as being on stage is, family comes first. There have been out-of-town opportunities that I’ve turned down because I don’t want to be away from him and New York, but Bonnie and Clyde is really an investment for a job that will hopefully come to New York.
There have been rumors about it coming to Broadway…
Everybody’s saying this fall. We’ve recorded some demos; we don’t have specific dates or a theater yet, but every time I talk to the creative team [including composer Frank Wildhorn] and the producers they’re say we’re moving forward, so we'll see.
Between playing Hope Harcourt and Bonnie Parker, are you putting the “reality TV star” label behind you?
Grease was the best experience I could have hoped for, but there’s certainly a negative stigma that comes with being “that girl from the reality show.” Ever since the show, I’ve had to prove I was more than that. But now with Hope, and hopefully with Bonnie and Clyde coming, I’ll get to prove that this is what I really want to do. I’m taking it seriously and working hard, and I’ll continue to move past the reality show label.
Are you still friends with your Grease co-star, Max Crumm?
Yes! I think we’ll always be bosom buddies because we went through that experience together, and when we’re 80 years old I’ll still send him links to the numbers we did and say, “Hey, remember when we were on TV?” We’re like war buddies.