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Exclusive! Laura Osnes, Kate Rockwell, Ashley Spencer & Kathleen Monteleone Look Back on Grease Reality TV Show

Exclusive! Laura Osnes, Kate Rockwell, Ashley Spencer & Kathleen Monteleone Look Back on Grease Reality TV Show
Laura Osnes, Kate Rockwell, Kathleen Monteleone & Ashley Spencer at Beauty Bar
Photo by Jenny Anderson
Four out of five finalists in 'You're the One That I Want' made it to Broadway!

Six years ago, Broadway got its turn in the reality TV spotlight with the NBC competition series Grease: You're the One That I Want! Featuring a judging panel that included Tony-winning director/choreographer Kathleen Marshall, the show presented a group of eager young musical theater hopefuls who gave it their all their all in a quest to star on Broadway as Sandy and Danny in Grease. Amazingly, four of the top five female contestants are currently active on the Great White Way: winner Laura Osnes (title role in Cinderella), runner-up Ashley Spencer (recently Sherrie in Rock of Ages), fourth place contestant Kathleen Elizabeth Monteleone (Heather in Hands on a Hardbody) and fifth place finisher Kate Rockwell (currently Sherrie in Rock of Ages). Broadway.com photographer Jenny Anderson got these talented ladies together for a group portrait at Beauty Bar, and Broadway.com asked them to reflect on what their time in the TV spotlight taught them.


KATHLEEN ELIZABETH MONTELEONE
What is your most vivid memory of being part of the Grease reality TV competition?
Getting eliminated! It was my last memory and probably my best performance because it was honest. I also liked my hair and makeup that show.

How did the TV show prepare you for life as a working actress on Broadway?
On the show, I learned what the expression “fight or flight” really meant. There were so many opportunities to retreat, but I found this fight inside of me. I believe that's what has helped me continue and not give up on the Broadway dream.

Describe, in one word, the other three contestants who ended up on Broadway:
Laura: Success
Kate: Strength
Ashley: Talent

What did you think of your TV nickname, Spiritual Sandy?
I have a love/hate relationship with “Spiritual Sandy.” People do remember it, so that is good, but because it revealed my faith, it associated me with whatever anyone thought of Christianity, which was good and not so good.

What would your nickname be today?
Inappropriate Sandy. If you asked my castmates at Hands on a Hardbody, they would agree.

What’s the best advice you got from Kathleen Marshall?
She encouraged me to be exactly who I am. This competition was different than the other voting shows like American Idol. In my experience, it wasn't about being yourself (though if I were to do it again I would bring more of who I am). It was about being Sandy. I don't think she saw me as Sandy naturally, but she was encouraging in the talents I had whether they leaned toward being cast in the part or not. It’s been six years since the show, and I am more comfortable now bringing my natural strengths in my performances. Kathleen has a part in that.

What reality TV shows do you watch? Which one would you want to be on?
I kept up with American Idol for a while; our good friend Mike Lynch (Big Mike) was on. I would definitely be interested in auditioning as the new female co-host of The Bachelor. Pretty much the best television I've ever watched.


LAURA OSNES
What is your most vivid memory of being part of the Grease reality TV competition?
Choreographing dances and creating obstacle courses in the living room of the mansion we all lived in together! And getting my first spray tan. Ha!

How did the TV show prepare you for life as a working actress on Broadway?
It was rigorous and stressful. We got one day off per week and had to “sing for our survival” on national television, even through sickness or exhaustion. We didn’t get to choose our own songs and had to make the most of every performance. The wonderful thing was getting to work with real professionals in the business: Kathleen Marshall, Rob Marshall, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Georgia Stitt, David Chase, Joyce Chittick, Lorin Lotarro, Vince Pesce...all people I've continued to cross paths or even become friends with since living in New York! However, being put on such a pedestal to be judged by America week after week almost makes Broadway seem easy!

Describe, in one word, the other three contestants who ended up on Broadway:
Kate: Determined
Ashley: Dazzling
Kathleen: Delightful

What did you think of your TV nickname, Small Town Sandy?
At first I didn't like “Small Town Sandy” because I actually grew up in a large suburb of Minneapolis/St. Paul and felt misrepresented by such a nickname. But after a while, it totally grew on me. Small Town Sandy made me relatable to middle America. The people at home watching on TV could get behind a small-town girl.

What would your nickname be today?
Cinderella Sandy

What’s the best advice you got from Kathleen Marshall?
I remember her encouraging us to be individual—always bring the best of what YOU have to offer because that alone is what makes you unique. Never try to be someone else; being yourself is what makes you stand out from the crowd.

What reality TV shows do you watch? Which one would you want to be on?
I actually am not following any reality shows right now...and I don't think I ever want to be on one again!


KATE ROCKWELL
What is your most vivid memory of being part of the Grease reality TV competition?
There are two—and they couldn't be more different!! I remember very specifically feeling like I was going to pass out waiting to find out if I was going to be kicked off (which, turns out, I was). I’ve never felt fear like that, before or after that moment—like I had absolutely no control over my body. My other memory is so happy. We all used to hide from the cameras in the walk-in closet that was through our bathroom so we could get some real bonding time without feeling pressured. We had so much fun all together in there at night, just relaxing and pretending we weren't in the most ridiculous situation EVER!

How did the TV show prepare you for life as a working actress on Broadway?
Well, I will say this: Nothing can ever be worse than the stress that show put me through!! We had to perform live in front of a million people with barely any rehearsal. No performance could be scarier, so everything now seems so easy comparatively.

What did you think of your TV nickname, Serious Sandy?
“Serious Sandy”? Really?! I'm the FURTHEST thing from serious!! I never understood that nickname. I guess I got it because I said I took my work seriously...but honestly my friends and I have laughed about that name for six years!

What would your nickname be today?
Oh, lord. I hesitate to create my own nickname, but I suppose I’d accept Saucy Sandy? That's not bad...although maybe it brings ketchup bottles or something weird to mind. Spitfire Sandy? Ugh, that's gross too...this is clearly not my skill set.

What’s the best advice you got from Kathleen Marshall?
At one point she came to us off-camera and said (and this is a terrible misquote), “None of this is about talent anymore. You’re all good enough to do it. Now just let go and remember it has nothing to do with that.” And I’ve kept that in mind for all my auditions since—book it or not, everyone here is talented. Someone will win, and everyone else can’t. But it’s not personal, and it's not a reflection on your skill. To get this far, we all have the chops. It takes a lot of the pressure off, and I get to just be myself and not worry about being “good enough.”

What reality TV shows do you watch? Which one would you want to be on?
I don't watch many, I’ll be honest. Being on one is like going backstage at Disney—the veil is removed and you kind of lose the magic. But I love So You Think You Can Dance because I admire dancers so much.


ASHLEY SPENCER
What is your most vivid memory of being part of the Grease reality TV competition?
All of us living in the Grease house together. We played capture the flag involving building barricades and sneaking in and out of windows! Mattress surfing down the stairs (haha) and playing Cranium was a blast too!

How did the TV show prepare you for life as a working actress on Broadway?
On the TV show we had to learn and perform multiple routines each week. It really helped me to be able to pick things up quickly and build the stamina to perform in a Broadway show eight times a week.

Describe, in one word, the other three contestants who ended up on Broadway:
Laura: Lovely Lemon! We called each other lemon and lime because our colors were yellow and green!
Kate: Powerhouse! She's got cords of steel!
Kathleen: Kind! Spiritual human being : )

What did you think of your TV nickname, Ballerina Sandy?
Oh, I don't know! I thought it was all right, and I get where they got the idea from. I wanted to be a ballerina for a long time early on and was part of a ballet company in my hometown. But at the same time I didn't want that to be all people saw me as.

What would your nickname be today?
I'm too old to play Sandy now! Grandma Sandy?

What’s the best advice you got from Kathleen Marshall?
She gave us a lot of great advice throughout the show, but I always remember her telling me to be spontaneous in my performance and it has stuck with me!

What reality TV shows do you watch? Which one would you want to be on?
My husband Jeremy [Jordan] and I watch The Voice on NBC. I wouldn’t want to be a contestant on any reality show, but would love to just go and hang out with the judges from The Voice. They look like they are having so much fun and I think Blake Shelton is a hoot!

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