Interview with Tony nominee Laura Osnes
Two-time Tony nominee Laura Osnes is currently starring in the lead role of Julia Trojan in the Broadway premiere of Bandstandat the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre.
Laura made her Broadway debut as Sandy in the 2007 revival of Grease, after winning the Reality TV competition "Grease: You're the One that I Want!" She went on to star as Nellie Forbush in Lincoln Center Theater's South Pacific in 2009 and 2010, as Hope Harcourt in the 2011 revival of Anything Goes, and she earned Tony nominations for her performances as Bonnie Parker in Bonnie and Clyde in 2012 and for the title role in Rodgers + Hammerstein's Cinderella in 2013.
She has also appeared off-Broadway in Pipe Dream and The Band Wagon at New York City Center and in the Atlantic Theatre Company's Threepenny Opera, as well as starring as Julie Jordan in Carousel at the Civic Opera House in Chicago.
We caught up with Laura to talk about Bandstand as both a music-themed reality TV competition of yesteryear and a moving tribute to the war veterans of the United States...
Thomas Hayden Millward: Congratulations on your Drama Desk nomination for yet another fantastic Broadway credit, Laura! How are you feeling?
Laura Osnes: I am pinching myself every day, going to work. I love this show and I love the cast. It’s so fulfilling and such an exciting journey every day!
THM: Do you know what I love, Laura? 1940s swing music! It gets my toes tapping! And I could watch “You Deserve It” in your show every night of the week until the cows come home!
LO: (Laughs) Thank you! I do get to watch it every night. It’s such a joy and a rush! That’s the whole point of the show – the music gives these characters a high, in a way. Do you know what I mean? It almost becomes their recovery drug from the crap that they’re all dealing with – the war scars and things like that. I’m glad it came across to you too. Music really does have the power to heal people and that’s the message of our show.
THM: Bandstand is a kind of two-headed beast in that, on the one hand, it resembles a sort of old school “American Idol” contest, but on the other hand, it’s also a tribute to war veterans and the horrors they had to endure. In what ways do you feel these two strands complement each other?
LO: Well, hopefully they do complement each other. I think that’s exactly it. It speaks to a contemporary audience, whilst still paying homage to that time. People are still fighting for our country. PTSD [Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder] is still a very real thing, as are the horrors of war and integrating back into society. My eyes have been opened, doing this show. We’ve all done a lot of research and we believe passionately in this story we’re telling. We’ve had a lot of conversations with real-life vets. And then on the other hand, I’ve been through a reality competition, so I know what that’s like. It’s very interesting and so important and surprisingly relevant to be telling these two aspects of the story together.
THM: And of course, PTSD wasn’t even acknowledged back in the 1940s. Interestingly, the show’s writers - Richard Oberacker and Robert Taylor – have used comedy to express some of the symptoms of PTSD, such as memory lapse or alcoholism, among some of the characters. How do you feel about using comedy in this respect?
LO: Well, what’s interesting is that a lot of the vets we spoke to, they do cover up their pain and the stuff they’re dealing with by joking about it… or not talking about it, or drinking or taking pills. Everyone has their vices and those things they are doing to try and help them forget those experiences. All of the characters are based on truth. We’re actually approved by an organisation called “Got Your 6.” We’ve been “6-certified.” The organisation helps insure that entertainment vehicles like Hollywood movies and documentaries portray veterans accurately. And we’re the first Broadway show to be certified by “Got Your 6.” We’re very passionate about that and it’s a huge part of our show, for sure.