Monday, July 11, 2016

A Broadway Romance: Laura Osnes and Santino Fontana in Concert at Orchestra Hall

Laura Osnes and Santino Fontana are Tony-nominated Broadway/TV/Film stars who have roots right here in Minnesota. Laura grew up here and performed on many stages around town before finding fame through the reality show competition Grease: You're the One That I Want, which she won, thereby landing the role of Sandy in Grease on Broadway and beginning her successful career on the national stage. Santino graduated from the U of M/Guthrie BFA program and did several plays at the Guthrie, most notably playing the title role in Hamlet, the last play performed at the old Guthrie Theater before the new Guthrie opened in 2006. He also has since found his way to Broadway, film (as the voice of Hans in Frozen), and TV (in the brilliant CW music-comedy series Crazy Ex-Girlfriend which you should go watch right now if you haven't yet, Season 1 available on Netflix). Laura and Santino's Broadway paths crossed in 2013 when they co-starred in the 2013 production of Cinderella, for which they were both nominated for a Tony. Fitting then, that these two Minnesota actors and Broadway stars would reunite for a concert called A Broadway Romance, developed by Ted Sterling (himself a Tony-winner for the orchestration of the stunning Light in the Piazza). The three performed the concert Sunday night at Orchestra Hall, and it was a charming romance indeed.

Ted explained to the packed house that he arranged the concert like the stages of a romance, from the wishing prior to meeting, to the awkward first date, to marriage, children, and difficult times, to coming back together. Which is a clever idea, but mostly just a great excuse to sing many of our favorite musical theater love songs, both solos and duets. Highlights of the concert are many, but here are some of my favorite moments:
  • Santino opened the show with one of my favorites, "Something's Coming" from West Side Story. Followed by Laura's lovely rendition of the Gershwins' "The Man I Love," which Ted told us was tried out in several musicals but never made it into one.
  • Having just watched the livestream of the new Broadway revival of She Loves Me (despite some technical difficulties), I enjoyed hearing a few selections from this charming musical, with Laura and Santino each singing a song in anticipation of the first date.
  • One of the few songs I hadn't heard before, "First Date/Last Night" from the Off-Broadway musical Dogfight, was a funny, poignant, real-feeling duet. I'm now very intrigued to see this show, perhaps a project for Second Fiddle Productions?
  • Of course, the night couldn't pass without a selection from Cinderella ("Ten Minutes Ago") and Frozen ("Love is an Open Door").
  • You can't talk about marriage and musical theater without singing at least one song from Sondheim's Company. My personal favorite is "Marry Me A Little," but "Getting Married Today" was a great choice too, and allowed Laura to show off her skills in speed-singing.
  • I often find sad love songs more interesting than happy ones, and that was beautifully represented by "Dividing Day" from Light in the Piazza and a couple of selections from Follies. Santino beautifully performed Buddy's epic song "The God-Why-Don't-You-Love-Me-Blues," while Laura got dark with "Could I Leave You?"
  • Santino's lovely rendition of "How To Handle A Woman" from Camelot made me even more excited to see it at Chanhassen Dinner Theatres this fall.
  • Finally, they closed the show with not one, but three encores, some of which were unplanned and required the sheet music, which only made it more fun. But the first one was my favorite, an unplugged version of "They Were You" from The Fantasticks, which sounded just gorgeous with those two beautiful and well-trained voices in a space build for music.
Laura Osnes and Santino Fontana are incredibly talented and I'm proud that they spent their formative years right here in Minnesota. I'm so grateful they returned for this concert, and I hope to see either or both of them return to do a full run of a show at one of our local theaters.

from the 2006 production of Grease at Chanhassen Dinner Theatres

from the 2006 production of Hamlet at the Guthrie Theater