New belle of Broadway, certifiably Minnesotan

- Some people are born to hand jive.  And sometimes with the right moves, and just the right amount of greased lightnin’, you can catapult to Broadway.

The Chanhassen Dinner Theatres has long served as a dream-inducing catapult for Minnesota’s best and brightest theatre performers.  But likely no launch will ever go down as forceful, or as graceful, as their send-up of Eagan native Laura Osnes.  

10 years later and you might be convinced time has reversed itself at the Chan.  Just like one decade before it, Grease was the word in 2017.  And for one special night this fall - closing night - Laura returned to the theater, and the show, that helped secure her fate as the new belle of Broadway.

“Seeing Grease again 10 years later was full- circle,” Osnes said. “What a surreal experience.”

Eagle-eyed theater critics likely spotted the New York celebrity over bites of their Chicken Chanhassen.  Only this time around Laura spent her night off the stage, cheering on her former Minnesota co-workers - a reality check, years in the making.

“I still have so many friends who are living here and working professionally,” Osnes said. “I now get to do that on the Broadway level, but I’m still me.  Whether I’m working in Minnesota or New York, I’m grateful for each opportunity.”

Those opportunities have been nearly non-stop.  Ever since leaving the Chan’s production of Grease for her winning stint on the NBC reality show, “You’re the One that I Want,” Broadway producers have clearly taken up a similar motto.  

Following her debut as Sandy on Broadway, Osnes has headlined classic Broadway revivals like Cinderella, and more gritty new-age musicals like Bonnie and Clyde.  A theatre chameleon of sorts, Laura has successfully moved through countless genres.  As comfortable as she is singing Rodgers and Hammerstein, she isn’t afraid to tackle the belt-heavy hits of the present.

“My voice and my character fit the classics very well, but I like doing both just to give my voice a break from one or the other.  It’s good to stretch yourself in that way and be versatile,” Osnes said.

No matter the content matter, landing roles in back to back productions on Broadway can take on a heightened, frenzied, and at times, manic itinerary.  Staying grounded has always been a top priority for the in-demand performer.

“It’s been really crazy.  It’s so easy to get caught up in the job, in all the glory of it - you have to remain level- headed,” Osnes said.

Any successful journey down the Great White Way generally comes with expedited directions to Hollywood Boulevard.  But for the most part, Osnes is keeping her Hollywood piranhas at bay, pushing off the chance at a fatter pay check, for her one true love.

“I’m really happy where I am. My first love is the stage, specifically musical theater, so maybe someday I’ll do a film, but I have a feeling I would always come back to the stage,” Osnes said.

Laura knows replicating her path to Broadway would prove next to impossible - winning a reality TV show tied to a musical theatre revival is hardly a popular phenomenon. That’s why she now returns to Minnesota from time to time, working with the young artists of Hennepin Theatre Trust’s “Spotlight Education” program.  Laura was a beneficiary of the same program during her own high school years.

“I remember working with such great theater artists.  The inspiration I received, what an amazing advantage it gives kids at a young level,” Osnes said.

Yes, winning a reality show might be hard to swing, but take it from one Minnesota performer done good, Broadway could be closer than you might think.

“Be patient.  If it’s meant to be, it will come to fruition,” Osnes said. “It sounds so cliché, but be yourself.  As performers we spend so much time playing other characters, but knowing who you are is so important.”

For Osnes, there’s still much to accomplish in the Big Apple - from trying out her acting chops in a play, to expanding her fledgling family.  That could soon mean a move outside Manhattan for a little more space.

“My husband and I love New York, but it’s time to start thinking about a house, possibly kids in a few years,” Osnes said. “I’m very content doing what I’m doing, and I’d like to see that trajectory continue.”


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