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Laura Osnes and Corey Cott on How ‘Bandstand’ Changed Them

October 1, 2017 by Suzy Evans
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Laura Osnes and Corey Cott (Photographed by Nathan Johnson)

On August 12, Laura Osnes presented her “Bandstand” co-star and friend Corey Cott with his official caricature at Sardi’s, and remembering the moment she found out she’d be headlining the swing-scored, 1940s tuner alongside her friend brings joy to her heart. “[Director/choreographer] Andy Blankenbuehler called me up one day,” she said to the guests at the Sardi’s ceremony “and said ‘What do you think about Corey Cott?’ and I thought ‘Hallelujah!’”

Osnes sings the final word, in a reference to a line from the musical. She collaborated with Cott on his auditions for the show, working with him through the process. “Just to get to see him through that whole journey and now getting to see him lead this whole company so beautifully is really fulfilling,” she says.

Osnes and Cott have been friends for years. She remembers meeting him for the first time right before he joined Newsies and made his Broadway debut as Jack Kelly. They watched the show from the mezzanine, and Osnes recalls spending a lot of time with the cast as a self-proclaimed “fansie.”

However, Cott has a different memory of their first meeting. When he was a freshman in college at Carnegie Mellon, he visited New York, and a friend of his knew Osnes, who was in “Grease” at the time, and suggested they stop by her apartment for a visit. “I knew who Laura was obviously and was like, ‘Oh my gosh, okay!’” Cott remembers. “And we went over to her apartment, and she was so kind and served us hot chocolate, and it was super hot. And I was nervous so I spilled it all over her apartment and all over my pants.”

Now, that’s a moment they laugh about, and they both immediately effuse how they’re fans of the other, and having that friendship foundation has been helpful as they’ve developed and performed the characters of Donny Novitski and Julia Trojan. Donny is a World War II vet who comes back home with the promise to check in on his fallen comrade’s wife, Julia. The layered character relationship requires a certain closeness for the actors.

“Having known each other for so long and wondering if you’ll ever work together and it’s just the best when you work with your friends,” Osnes says. “There’s an immediate level of trust there.”

“It’s like a dream come true to work with someone that you trust and care about as a friend,” Cott says.

And it’s not your typical musical theater romance, Osnes points out. “It’s not like, oh love at first sight, the prince and the princess,” she says, as the characters harbor a secret between them: Donny witnessed Julia’s husband killed in battle. “The audiences knows that there’s something that’s connecting us but also hindering us from ever being in love or being in love without complications,” says Cott. “There’s so much baggage that we have to get through.”

Cott says the musical is more like a play in its construction, and he and Osnes relish partnering in the scenes, which feel different night after night. “In the past I feel like I’ve been known for my consistency and in this show, it feels like for the first time I’m able to see it differently every day, which is really cool,” she says. “And that’s probably a lot because of you.”

And real-life war wives and vets have identified with the actors portrayal of these flawed characters’ story. Osnes mentions a night when members of TAPS (Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors), a nonprofit for people who have survived their partners being killed at war or due to PTSD, and a woman came up to Osnes after to share that after her fiancé died, she started dating the best friend, but it was too hard and they broke up. “That’s hard too with our show,” Osnes says. “We played around with versions where it maybe didn’t work out between them.”

“There’s a world where our show could have had us not ending up together in some way,” Cott adds. “There is a tradition of musical theater and storytelling that we wanted to adhere to. Not even that these people are okay at the end of the show — that’s not what it is — but that there is some sense of like joy and being able to move on.”

Cott and Osnes have enjoyed cultivating their friendship while co-starring int he show, and while the show closes on Sunday, they plan to stay close. The stars had semi-regular double dates on their days off with Cott’s wife Meg (and son Elliott) and Osnes’s husband Nathan, and they plan to continue the tradition after the curtain falls. They want to work together again and will always carry the lessons they learned from each other.

“Corey’s dedication to his craft puts mine to shame,” Osnes says, noting that Cott learned to play the piano for the part. “He’s always challenging himself and those around him to be better, go deeper, never settle. I seriously have never seen a co-star or cast mate pour themselves into a role and go for it the way Corey did with Donny. It’s utterly inspiring.”

Cott, for one, is inspired by Osnes’s attitude and demeanor and hopes he can absorb an ounce of her genuine nature. “Beyond being one of the most talented people I have ever met, Laura somehow finds a way to stay positive at all times—especially offstage,” he says. “I hope I can snag 5 percent of her positivity as I move on in my career.”

Quickfire

We asked Laura and Corey to answer the following questions about themselves — and each other.

What is your go-to drink?
Corey: Depends when – but Scotch
Laura for Corey: Bourbon

Laura: Lemonade (a margarita if it’s Sunday!)
Corey for Laura: Wine

How do you take your coffee?
Corey: Black
Laura for Corey: Black (because of Whole 30)

Laura: A splash of soy
Corey for Laura: Little milk

What is your favorite food?
Corey: A great steak
Laura for Corey: Pizza

Laura: Mexican/Chips + salsa!
Corey for Laura: Mexican. Chips. Guac. Tacos.

What is your go-to outfit in a pinch?
Corey: Jeans. Hat. T-shirt.
Laura for Corey: Jeans and a button down

Laura: Summer dress
Corey for Laura: A sensible dress

What is your dream role?
Corey: Floyd Collins or Billy Bigelow
Laura for Corey: Judas in “Jesus Christ Superstar”

Laura: Marian in “The Music Man”
Corey for Laura: Maria in “Sound of Music”

Dream vacation?
Corey: Mediterranean yacht cruise
Laura for Corey: Italy

Laura: Italy
Corey for Laura: Isolated island with her hubby

Dream dinner date?
Corey: Pizza on the couch with my wife
Laura for Corey: Grillin’ on the deck with Meg and Elliot

Laura: Beach, sunset, with Nate!
Corey for Laura: Fancy tacos after performing somewhere fancy and then a fancy Instagram picture of her fro-yo