BWW Review: Laura Osnes shines again in her REPERTOIRE ROULETTE at Birdland Jazz Club
Birdland, NYC, November 5th, 2019
Every time Laura Osnes makes an appearance, the audience has learned to expect the highest level of detail and ability on Broadway today. Her regular shows at Birdland and 54 Below are must-see events, occurring nearly every month between the two. Here in these vaunted venues, sometimes alongside other talented performers, Osnes showcases a variety of her talents. One such case is Osnes's Repertoire Roulette. A creative take on the contemporary cabaret, where singers cycle through their show history, Osnes lets the audience pick from roughly 50 songs she's sung or would like to sing to create her show list. It's a mouthful for sure for me to describe, but certainly intense for Osnes and pianist, Fred Lassen, to prepare for. With the only caveat being that Osnes slightly curates between up-tempo and ballad, they had every song perfectly prepared. Her humble original ditty by Michael Mott where she sings, "Let's hope I don't regret, Repertoire Roulette," kicked things off and then the fun truly began.
There were strong performances throughout the show by Osnes, though the first song pulled from a grab bag, "If I were a Bell," happened to be one of my favorites of hers. A fine song in and of itself, Osnes's particular sound and style fit perfectly in this uptempo ditty from the 1948 musical, Guys and Dolls. Each note that seems to echo out from her enriches the experience of watching her sing, and every line seems to be stuck in my head still, especially the first few in the chorus, "Ask me how do I feel/little me with my quiet upbringing/well, sir, all I can say/is if I were a gate, I'd be swinging." A later song that impressed me anew, though I've seen her perform it previously, was, "What Baking Can Do." Briefly, she mentioned her longing to appear in the musical, Waitress, and although she didn't get the chance, this touching song of burying one's emotions into pies remains a thrilling moment.
In the background on "What Baking Can Do" was Adam J. Levy, who recently returned from being on tour with Waitress. A friend of Osnes's who also sometimes makes appearances in her Broadway Princess Party, he joined her on stage for a charming duet of another song from the show (Waitress), "You Matter to Me," before staying to doo-wop a bass line. This was one of a few departures from the show's typical random selection process, which brought out songs like "All the things you are" and "Who I Was." But after Levy delivered the line, "I could find the whole meaning of life in those sad eyes," I knew the audience was in for a treat. It's a little ironic that I've highlighted three songs from shows that Osnes likes, rather than ones she's done, but that doesn't mean she didn't perform any. If there's a song that you'd desperately like her to sing, she does also open up the floor for requests at the end, having closed the night with "How About a Dance" from Bonnie & Clyde.
A unique aspect of Osnes is her timeless voice. Perhaps that's why she found herself performing the classics from 1949's South Pacific and the more contemporary, Bandstand. However, she also had the opportunity, through random selection, to highlight her adoration for the tunes of George and Ira Gerswhin, singing "A Foggy Day." One of her best moments, the crowd was enthralled from the get-go and the way she even made the lines, "out of town were the people I knew...what to do, what to do, what to do," beautiful. Osnes is sure to impress you, maybe already has (especially if you came on November 4th), and certainly will be performing again soon!