Laura Osnes is currently playing Cinderella on Broadway, where she is earning rave reviews from critics and abundant love from audiences. She first caught the eye of the public when she appeared on NBC's Grease: You're the One That I Want!, a reality competition show designed to cast the leading roles in the 2007 Broadway revival of Grease. On the show, she won audiences over as "Small Town Sandy."
In the meantime, Osnes has racked up some incredible theater credits and honors, including a Tony Award nomination for her performance as Cinderella. From November 27 to December 1, 2012, she took the stage at 54 BELOW, performing the music of Maury Yeston. Her celebrated performances in that intimate venue are the basis for her divinely gorgeous solo album, If I Tell You (Songs of Maury Yeston).
Yeston is a name that should ring a bell for Houston audiences. In 1991 Theatre Under the Stars produced the world premiere of his and Arthur Kopit's musical Phantom, based on Gaston Leroux's novel The Phantom of the Opera. He also wrote the music and lyrics for the 1982 Broadway musical Nine, which was revived with Antonio Banderas in the lead role in 2003 and starred Daniel Day-Lewis in its 2009 film adaptation. Other writing credits for Yeston include Broadway's 1989 musical Grand Hotel, Broadway's 1997 musical Titanic, and Off-Broadway's 2011 musical Death Takes a Holiday.
The strength for Osnes' If I Tell You (Songs of Maury Yeston) comes from her dazzling and opulent soprano vocal instrument. Victoria Clark, starring opposite her in Cinderella as the Fairy Godmother, says, "I was immediately struck by...the fluid sound of her clear natural soprano" in the liner notes for the album. Clark couldn't be more correct and exact. The first thing that listeners will be astounded by is the sparkle and effervescence of Osnes's voice. Osnes never strains, singing each track with graceful and artful precision.
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Every track is splendid; however, my favorites have to be those that form Yeston's ornate song cycle December Songs. Osnes tells the story of this linked sequence of reflections expressed by a person taking a lonely walk in winter, reminiscing about lost love. Each piece is picturesque and full of emotions. Whether she is conveying a sense of wistful longing on "December Snow," "Bookseller in the Rain," and "I Am Longing," a sense of boundless excitement on "Where Are You Now?" and "When Your Love Is New," a sense of abounding hopefulness on "My Grandmother's Love Letters," "I Had a Dream About You," and "By the River," or a sense of being spirited and powerfully uplifted on "What a Relief," she emotes with remarkable skill. Listeners will be swept away from their world and taken on this mesmerizing and relatable journey with her.
Yeston wrote each of the delightful masterpieces on the disc. Likewise, the album features fantastic and invigorating Musical Direction by Fred Lassen. Lassen is also responsible for all arrangements, except "I Still Hear the Music," which was arranged by Larry Hochman.
As I write this review, gloomy ominous clouds threaten to unload more rain onto a waterlogged Houston, and I find Osnes' If I Tell You (Songs of Maury Yeston) to be the perfect burgundy-toned companion for such weather. Her soothingly golden and angelic soprano notes superbly lift emotions out of the doldrums and into the ether; yet, Yeston's moody and evocative music reflect the austere glory of the current weather conditions. This album will suffice as a lovely backdrop for dinner conversation in the spring and summer, but will play resplendently on those dark, cool fall and winter evenings. It'd also be magnificently paired with a nice battle of wine and an evening by the fireplace with someone special.