I had enjoyed Laura Osnes as Bonnie in the underrated musical “Bonnie and Clyde,” and find it fitting that she opened her debut show at the Café Carlyle (June 19-30, 2012) with the provocative “How ‘Bout a Dance” from that musical. It was also a tip off to her special strength—delivering songs from musical theater in grand style, combining her acting chops with soaring soprano finishes. After all, the delightful performer got to play Nellie Forbush in the Lincoln Center Theater’s production of “South Pacific.” She gave us a taste of that too, effervescently singing “Wonderful Guy.”
Osnes is clearly in her musical theater element, as evidenced on opening night when she soared with renditions of other Broadway show numbers. She also did something clever, taking the number “I Have Confidence” from “The Sound of Music” and tweaking it to reflect the road to acquiring her own self-confidence as an entertainer.
Osnes showed such confidence as well as daring when she lauched into “Don’t Rain on My Parade,” a song so associated with Barbra Streisand. I can tell you exercising my self-confidence that her version was smashingly dynamic and even in some ways topping what Streisand does. Nobody can rain on Osnes’s parade.
There was a bit of overly self-conscious talk about the thrill of this being her debut at the Carlyle and who- would-have-thought-it would-happen humility. She also got homespun, introducing her husband, Nathan Johnson, to sing with her. But that’s part of her beguiling charm. She is very attractive (she wore a figure-hugging black strapless outfit on opening night) and her chatting comes across as genuine as the impassioned delivery of songs in her repertoire.
A highpoint was her introduction of Joel Grey, with whom she appeared in “Anything Goes,” to come up and sing with her. He is a natural in such circumstances. When she asked what they should sing, he replied “What we rehearsed this afternoon.” They launched into a spirited duet with “Friendship.” Grey presented her with an elegantly wrapped gift, which she opened and from which she extracted a pineapple. That became a cue for singing “A Pineapple.” Osnes is scheduled to have different guests appear during the run of the show.
Her musicians are Fred Lassen, piano; Marc Copely, guiitars; Pete Donovan, bass, and Larry Lelli, drums.
By now you should have gleaned that Osnes is a polished pro who is very likable and merrily enjoyable in this evening with her. She also demonstrates that, in addition to her Broadway numbers, she can handle a variety of other songs, such as delivering a feverish “Fever.” She sang “Femininity,” “Must Be My Lucky Day,” “Shaking the Blues Away,” and as an encore, the tender “Dream a Little Dream.” Osnes is as at home in a supper club as on the Broadway stage. At the Café Carlyle, Carlyle Hotel, 35 East 76th Street. Phone: 212-744-1600. Posted June 20, 2012.