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BWW Interview: Laura Osnes Hops on THE BAND WAGON- Chatting with the Two-Time Tony Nominee About Encores!, Concerts & More!

The Encores! Special Event The Band Wagon, starring Tony Award winner Brian Stokes Mitchell, seven-time Emmy Award winner Tracey Ullman, Academy Award nominee Michael McKean, Tony Award nominee Laura Osnes, Tony Award nominee Michael Berresse, Tony Award nominee Tony Sheldon and Don Stephenson will open on Sunday, November 8. The Band Wagon will run for 12 performances, by special arrangement with Warner Bros. Theatre Ventures.

Based on the classic MGM film of the same title, the show has a book by Douglas Carter Beane adapted from the screenplay by Betty Comden and Adolph Green, with music by Arthur Schwartz and lyrics by Howard Dietz. The Band Wagon will be directed and choreographed by three-time Tony Award winner Kathleen Marshall with music direction by Todd Ellison.

A classic backstage musical, The Band Wagon tells the story of a washed-up Hollywood star (Brian Stokes Mitchell) who attempts to make a comeback by doing a Broadway show, and encounters an assortment of colorful characters: a British director (Tony Sheldon) who is a genius but has no business directing a musical, a leading lady who's never done a show before (Laura Osnes), and a composer and a lyricist who are at each other's throats (Michael McKean and Tracey Ullman). All the things that could never happen in the New York theater today.

Osnes took the time to chat with BroadwayWorld earlier this week about prepping for the project, as well as what she's been up to since leaving the cast of CINDERELLA on Broadway. Check out the full interview below!


Were you familiar with the movie before you signed on?

I wasn't, and in fact I'm still not all that familiar! We haven't started rehearsals yet, but we did a table reading of this about six months ago- we literally just read it out loud one morning. I was familiar with maybe one or two of the songs but I had never sung them before. And I haven't seen the movie! So it's my job in the next few days to watch it before rehearsals start, just so that I know going into it. But it's also really fun to not have any preconceived notions, you know? To just dive in and say "Ok, we're gonna do it our way!"

I know that the speed that Encores! Shows are put together is insane. What is the timeline like for this one?

We start on Monday, and then our opening night is November 6, so we have a little bit longer than a typical Encores! I think. It's two weeks of rehearsal with a few days of tech, and then we have twelve performances November 6-16.

Yes, I love that it's a longer than normal Encores! run.

Exactly! This is my third Encores! experience. I did FAUST earlier this spring and that was a week of rehearsal with one performance. It was really small. And then I also did PIPE DREAM, which I think was in between the two. We had about a week and a half of rehearsals with five performances over the weekend. It was still fast. This one is a bit longer, which will be nice I think because I think Kathleen [Marshall] is going to do some dance numbers!

What kind of preparations are you making at this point?

Well I probably should start memorizing my lines... we have one music rehearsal, so I've plunked out some of the music. My style is more to memorize as I'm doing it. It's really hard for me to pre-memorize and then go in and put it on its feet. And I feel confident that things will probably change in rehearsal, so for me personally, it's easier to use pages the first few days and figure it out as I'm rehearsing. I know that some people come in the first day memorized, and maybe I should do that. [Laughs] But hopefully I can take the first week to get off book and be off by the second week and still have tech to finalize it. I would just hate to memorize too much and then things get changed.

You're playing 'Gabrielle', the Cyd Charisse role. That must be very exciting...

I'm so excited that I'll get to dance a little bit. Even plunking through these songs the other day was so great. Everything fits well in my voice and I think it's going to be wonderful music to sing.

And there's already mentions in the script that say: "She comes in dressed to the nines" and "She's wearing a beautiful dress." William Ivey Long is designing the costumes for this and I just can't wait to see what he puts me in!

And you're a part of such an amazing cast!

I'm so thrilled about it! I'm honored to be in the company of these amazing people and getting to work with Kathleen again! We've gotten to do a few projects together and I trust her implicitly. Going through a quick process like this with a director that you know and love is really a gift.

Are you excited to get to star opposite Brian Stokes Mitchell?

Getting to work with him is going to be fantastic. We know each other because we've sung at a bunch of concerts and things together, but we've never actually worked together in a prolonged project like this.

This version features an adapted book by Douglas Carter Beane, who you have of course worked with before. What can you tell us about his version?

Well the thing is, because I don't know the original that well, I don't really know what has changed! But Doug is very funny and very witty and I think that this is the perfect piece for him to tackle and update a little bit. It still takes place in that time period, but it definitely has a little bit of the Douglas Carter Beane spin on it. It suits this piece very well.

At this point you've done several Encores! Productions- what is it about the experience that keeps you coming back for more?

It's so fun to work that part of your brain- of getting thrown into a project and getting through it all so quickly. You're forced to trust each other on the first day and go for it, which I think is so exciting. And it's also a great thing to do because it's a short commitment. Life is busy, and if you only have to commit yourself to something for three weeks you're like "Yeah!" So it's super fun AND I don't have to sign away a year of my life to do it. Sometimes you want a job that lasts a year... obviously that's great too! I think it's why they can get such amazing talent for these shows though. They can bring in all of these people and the commitment is only three weeks!

I also love the City Center. I LOVE that space. The theatre is so beautiful. And getting to do it with an orchestra too is so wonderful. For PIPE DREAM, we had Rob Berman conducting 28 pieces- it might have even been more than that! It's the full arrangements with great orchestrations, and that's so rare. Forcing yourself to get thrown into this kinda thing is so stimulating!

It seems like you've had a really busy summer with concert appearances! Was it nice to have some time outside of NYC?

Absolutely! When you're in a show you never get to travel. It's eight shows a week and you have one day off and rarely are you spending that day flying to another state. So yeah, I had a really great summer getting to do concerts everywhere, and I went to Texas and taught some master classes too. Plus getting to do things with Michael Feinstein and Ted Sperling has been exciting and fun. It was great for the summer and it was great to have a social life again, [Laughs] but I'm definitely like, "Ok, I'm ready for a show again!" I can't wait to get back to the routine of doing eight shows a week. Whenever that comes along I'm definitely ready for it. It's been so fun for a change.

Plus that's a whole different aspect of the business- doing concerts and having to be yourself and singing with orchestras. Doing that with Santino [Fontana] was great, and we even have a few more lined up through February. It's so great to continue to work with him.

You've had a fairytale career so far, being thrust into everything and you've been working nonstop since then. Do you get a chance to really stop and reflect on have far you've come?

Yes, I absolutely do almost every day! I'm so grateful for all the doors that have opened and I never would have guessed that it would happen this way. The timing of everything so far has been amazing. There have definitely been disappointments along the way when things haven't worked out, or hard decisions I had to make between a few jobs. It's constantly a battle, but my agent has helped me to guide my career in a wonderful way.

I haven't been on Broadway now though since January. It's been almost a year! Even when BONNIE & CLYDE closed... I thought that would run for a year and then I was suddenly out of a job. It's funny though how when you are suddenly available, all of these other opportunities come your way. I get to do all of these other things that you have to say no to when you are in a show. It's definitely still been busy, but it makes me realize that I can't wait to do a show again.

I'm so grateful for all of the opportunities that have come though, and it's so incredible to look back and think, "I've gotten to work with some really incredible people. I've gotten to play some really incredible roles, and now it's two Tony nominations later!" It's every little actor girl's dream come true. I still love it- I don't feel like I'm jaded or getting over the business. I still love what I do. To be honest, people are always asking, "Do you want to do TV and film and go to LA?" I definitely would welcome that opportunity if it came my way, but musical theatre is my first love and I'm so happy to be working in New York and getting to do what I love for the last seven years.


The Band Wagon will run for 12 performances, November 6 - 16 (see full schedule below). Tickets are available at the New York City Center Box Office (West 55th Street between 6th and 7th Avenues), through CityTix® at 212-581-1212, and online at www.NYCityCenter.org. Further information is available at www.NYCityCenter.org.

Osnes recently starred the Encores! Off-Center production of Randy Newman's Faust: The Concert, and in the off-Broadway revival of The Threepenny Opera, directed by Martha Clarke. Her Broadway credits include the title role in Rogers + Hammerstein's Cinderella (Drama Desk Award), Bonnie in Bonnie and Clyde, Hope Harcourt in the Tony-winning revival of Anything Goes, Nellie Forbush in Lincoln Center's South Pacific, and Sandy in the most recent revival of Grease. Other New York credits include the Encores! production of Pipe Dream and a one-night-only concert of The Sound of Music at Carnegie Hall. Laura made her cabaret debut at the Café Carlyle in 2012, resulting in her first solo CD, Dream A Little Dream: Live at The Carlyle. She followed that appearance with an evening of Maury Yeston's music at 54 Below, which led to her second solo CD, If I Tell You: The Songs Of Maury Yeston. www.laura-osnes.com



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