Laura Osnes has performed at the Kennedy Center, Lincoln Center, the Stephen Sondheim and Brooks Atkinson Broadway houses. But before this past weekend, she had never worked inside her hometown's biggest theater --the Guthrie.
Osnes participated in a staged reading of "Roman Holiday," the new musical that will have its American premiere June 9 at the Guthrie. Paul Blake, who fashioned "Irving Berlin's White Christmas" into a stage show, has written the libretto for this adaptation of the 1953 Audrey Hepburn-Gregory Peck film.
Her work here does not mean she will be back for the show's run this summer, she said. It just worked into her schedule and allowed her a chance to see her family and catch up with acquaintances back in Minnesota. On Saturday, she returned to Chanhassen Dinner Theatre for the first time since she left in 2007 to start her Broadway career. Nicole Chapman, one of her best friends, is in "Hairspray," so Osnes had to get out to see the show.
Osnes has proven that she was not a fluke winner of the "The One That I Want" -- the reality-TV contest that gave her the starring role in 2007's Broadway revival of "Grease." Even though the production was panned, Osnes received favorable notices, and the show ran for 18 months. When Kelli O'Hara had to leave a Broadway revival of "South Pacific," Osnes twice stepped into the lead role. She played a supporting role in "Anything Goes," then left that production for the Broadway premiere of "Bonnie and Clyde" in November.
Osnes, who had originated the role of 1930s gangster moll Bonnie Parker in productions in California and Florida, again slipped the critics' daggers, although this time the show did not survive. It closed prematurely Dec. 30, and Osnes does not hide her disappointment.
"It was a breakthrough role for me -- a different color and voice," she said. "It's ironic that it died young, because Bonnie and Clyde die young. And it was really hard to see my colleagues get reamed by the critics."
Over coffee last week, Osnes caught herself as she talked about the work she has done, "Since I moved here -- oh, I mean New York." Manhattan, the biggest small town in America, feels like home to her, husband Nathan, and their new puppy, Lila.
"It's huge, but once you break in, it's small," she said of the city.
She has turned down several national tours -- including a chance to play Glinda in "Wicked" -- because she didn't want to leave New York for a year just as her career is catching momentum. She's shrewd about such things. She trusts her agents when they recommend which offers to take and which to turn down ("it's OK to say no, but I always try to be gracious"). If she misses the Twin Cities, it is strictly on a personal level because she shakes her head when asked if she could imagine returning for a star vehicle.
"I'm in New York now; that's where my career is," Osnes said. "No offense, because this is a terrific community and I love the people, but it wouldn't make sense for me."
Maybe that sounds more jaded than she meant it, for Osnes, 26, still at times has trouble believing where she is. In December, she sang "This Is All Very New to Me" at the Kennedy Center Honors for Broadway legend Barbara Cook.
"I thought, 'What am I doing here?'" she said. "We went to the White House and I was singing with Kelli O'Hara, Audra McDonald, Sutton Foster, Glenn Close."
She also can't believe that she's become pals with "Anything Goes" star Foster, one of Broadway's "It" girls.
"I bake, so I used to bring in treats for the cast in 'Anything Goes.' I got a text from Sutton the other day that said, 'I miss you.'"
Osnes auditioned for the upcoming TV series "Smash" -- an NBC drama about staging a Broadway musical -- and got down to the finalists before the producers in "Anything Goes" asked her to make a choice. Knowing that former "American Idol" Katharine McPhee was in the running for her role, she took the safe bet with the continuing Broadway show. She did, however, watch the pilot for "Smash."
"That's my life, what I do every day," she said. "That's how I felt with Sandy, the sweet little brunette girl that nobody thought could be a sexy blonde. I relate to the story a lot."