Seeing how she marked a major artistic progession in her Broadway career with her turn as the conflicted war widow Julia Trojan in Bandstand, Laura Osnes would be perfectly within her rights to go the Broadway diva route and create a cabaret act that was all about her. It’s very refreshing, then, that her current Carlyle engagement is actually more of a group show devoted to the Rodgers and Hammerstein Songbook. Called “Cockeyed Optimists,” the show equally features Osnes, fellow Broadway ingenue Ryan Silverman, and her sometime colleague and freind — and Tony-Award-winning orchestrator and music director — Ted Sperling.
They all are deeply musical people with classical music ambitions. In fact Sperling and Osnes worked together most recently on a production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Carousel at the Lyric Opera of Chicago. That makes for a musically rewarding show that includes terrific songs from every phase of the legenardy songwriting team’s partnership, plus a lovely, breif medley of songs that Hammerstein wrote with Jerome Kern and Rodgers wrote with Lorenz Hart.
The good news is that Sperling is a terrific singer, if not quite in Osnes leading-lady-worthy league. As well sung as it is, the act could definitely benefit visually from a director’s touch. For example, when Osnes and Silverman are singing an immaculately delivered “Some Enchanted Evening” they stand to face to face, which means that in the intimate thrust stage arrangement of the Carlyle, maybe three people get the full impact of the moment.
Still, when Laura sings such sweeping songs as “Hello Young Lovers” and “A Wonderful Guy” — or her and Silverman play legendary sequences like the “bench scene” from Carousel or a scene from Oklahoma for Laurie and Curly — all set to Ted’s equally grand arrangements, this is pretty hard to resist. Recommended.
For tickets, click here.
To learn about Jonathan Warman’s directing work, see jonathanwarman.com.