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Laura Osnes: Cockeyed Optimists: The World of Rodgers and Hammerstein

| October 8, 2017

Laura Osnes

Cockeyed Optimists: The World of Rodgers and Hammerstein

Café Carlyle, NYC,  September 26, 2017

Reviewed by Elizabeth Ahlfors for Cabaret Scenes

Laura Osnes
Photo: David Andrako

This was a sublime quartet of some favorite things—Laura Osnes, Ted Sperling, Richard Rodgers, and Oscar Hammerstein II. For one week at the Café Carlyle, Osnes’ silvery voice, her beauty, and musical perception evoked the finest American essence of the Rodgers and Hammerstein songbook. With her sidekick—musicologist and pianist Ted Sperling — she brought magic to the Carlyle stage just as she recently brought her charm to the Broadway musical Bandstand. Guest baritone Ryan Silverman on romantic duets, and his spectacular solo of Carousel‘s “Soliloquy,” added a fifth favorite thing. 

Osnes is known best for her theater work, including Sandy in Broadway’s Grease, Maria in The Sound of Music, and Cinderella in the Broadway production of the fairy tale originated for television by Rodgers and Hammerstein. With Sperling as musical director, she toured as Nellie Forbush in South Pacific, and the two join again here to prove their appreciation of the Rodgers and Hammerstein songbook history and what it means to the American genre. Osnes is still tailor-made for the ingénue roles in traditional musical theater with her incredibly clear voice and secure wide range. With assurance, she delivered the youthful ebullience of “I Enjoy Being a Girl” (Flower Drum Song), as well as a haunting song of remembrance, “Hello, Young Lovers,” from The King and I.

Sperling added a spark with backstage stories and, with Osnes, he ignited the show with a pairing of landmark songs written by Rodgers and Hammerstein with other partners. Osnes sang a lovely “All the Things You Are” (Hammerstein/Jerome Kern), and Sperling delivered a bittersweet rendition of “It Never Entered My Mind”  by Rodgers and his long-time lyricist Lorenz Hart. 

The guest appearance of Silverman offered a chance for the he and Osens to join for expressive takes on the R&H songbook, including “The Surrey with the Fringe on Top” (Oklahoma!) and “If I Loved You” (Carousel). They added a “nightcap” to the show with a tender duet of “Edelweiss” (The Sound of Music), the last lyric written by Oscar Hammerstein II, wrapping this memorable show in a gentle aura of nostalgia.

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Category: Cabaret Reviews, New York City, New York City Cabaret Reviews, Regional

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