Laura Osnes: Repertoire Roulette

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Laura Osnes

Repertoire Roulette

Birdland Theater, NYC, March 27, 2019

Reviewed by Bart Greenberg for Cabaret Scenes

Laura Osnes

A diva who admits she normally prefers to plan everything (“I write out my patter”) plunged into the deep end of the pool and rose up like Esther Williams, complete with sparklers. Laura Osnes (or her husband) came up with the audacious idea of selecting 65 songs from her repertoire of mostly musical-theater songs and tossing their titles into two top hats—one for ballads, one for up tunes—and allowing audience members to pluck out the slips of papers and setting the song list for the show.

The format allowed Osnes to demonstrate not only a wide range of styles with songwriters ranging from Cole Porter to Jason Robert Brown but also an astonishing ability to shift characters at a moment’s notice. She was asked to sing “What’s the Use of Wonderin’?

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,” and within a few bars Julie Jordan was on stage. In another chosen song it was the innocent but not naive Eileen Sherwood who offered up “A Little Bit in Love.” Nor were all her characters sweet: “How About a Dance” brought back the sultry Bonnie Parker she created on Broadway.

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The evening also permitted the songstress to interact with the audience much more than a standard program might have, and she made the most charming of interviewers.

Guests from Chicago; New Jersey; and Dublin, Ireland, confirmed that she is known far outside of the 10 blocks that make up Broadway.

Osnes topped the fun with a variety of backstage stories from her disappointment at the failure of Bonnie and Clyde after a three-year investment to the thrill of four auditions leading to her being cast as Nellie Forbush, as well as a hysterical tale of a Peter Pan performance that went very wrong.

Throughout, Osnes received the strong support of music director and compadre Fred Lassen, who added some behind-the-scenes tales of his own dealing with the live broadcast of The Sound of Music. He also chose the final two songs of the evening, a heart breaking “Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye” and a delightful medley of selections from different versions of the Cinderella story, which allowed her to enchant one last time as she ranged from Disney to Rodgers and Hammerstein to Sondheim, demonstrating different aspects of the same character.

Bart Greenberg

Bart Greenberg first discovered cabaret a few weeks after arriving in New York City by seeing Julie Wilson and William Roy performing Stephen Sondheim and Cole Porter outdoors at Rockefeller Center. It was instant love for both Ms. Wilson and the art form. Some years later, he was given the opportunity to create his own series of cabaret shows while working at Tower Records. "Any Wednesday" was born, a weekly half-hour performance by a singer promoting a new CD release. Ann Hampton Callaway launched the series. When Tower shut down, Bart was lucky to move the program across the street to Barnes & Noble, where it thrived under the generous support of the company. The series received both The MAC Board of Directors Award and The Bistro Award. Some of the performers who took part in "Any Wednesday" include Barbara Fasano and Eric Comstock, Tony Desare, Andrea Marcovicci, Carole Bufford, the Karens, Akers, Mason and Oberlin, and Julie Wilson. Privately, Greenberg is happily married to writer/photographer Mark Wallis, who as a performance artist in his native England gathered a major following as "I Am Cereal Killer."