Since winning the role of Sandy in Grease, Laura’s career has been jam packed with Tony nominated roles and everything in between. From concerts to albums to co-creating the popular Princess Party at Feinstein’s/54 Below, she can do it all – dance, sing, act… it’s no wonder she is Broadway’s sweetheart. Currently you can see Laura in the fantastic new show Bandstand where she takes the audience on an emotional roller coaster every night.
You have had quite a journey since you did Grease: “You Are The One That I Want.” What made you want to audition for the show and do you think it has helped further your career?
I actually was playing Sandy at a dinner theater in Minnesota where I am from when I found out about NBC’s reality show and I just felt in my heart that I should go for it. I talked to my director and they let me out for the weekend to fly to Los Angeles and audition and I think that’s what made me audition for it in the first place, the fact that I was playing the role, and the prize was getting to play Sandy in Grease on Broadway. I always wanted to be on Broadway so that was definitely an initiative, and I was just amazed to continue, making it further into the competition and then yes, it put me on the map. It opened huge doors for me in New York City. I got to move to New York with a year‑long contract in a Broadway show, so it definitely furthered my career.
You’ve been a Broadway.com vlogger and you’re also very active on social media – what is your favorite platform?
Instagram is my favorite because I have always been a photo person. I often make scrapbooks for shows that I do, and so I enjoyed documenting life even before Instagram. Now it’s fun to get to share some of that.
You made scrapbooks for every show you have been in?
I do. I have been doing it since like 1999. I have scrapbooks going all the way back to every show that I have done.
In a few words, describe your experience in the following shows:
Grease was a dream come true moment. That was what I always wanted to do, boom, I got to do that. Broadway.
South Pacific, I always say – this is a line directly from my concert. I grew from being a girl to being a woman during my time as Nellie. That was a growing up experience in a good way, in a beautiful way.
Anything Goes was champagne and joy.
Bonnie and Clyde
Bonnie and Clyde was very close to my heart. It was the first role I got to originate. So that was very special and we were super close.
Cinderella was magical.
You’ve worked with some great leading men like Corey Cott, Jeremy Jordan, Santino Fontana… what has that been like?
Oh, wonderful. I have had the best leading men on Broadway. I am glad you asked that and noticed that because I just feel so lucky that I have gotten to work with so many incredible guys on stage. I can tell you with confidence that all of them are close, dear friends of mine. None of them are divas. I got along very well with all of my Broadway leading men and that’s a huge gift. I have heard horror stories of the leads not getting along or off‑stage drama and tension and I have never had that. It’s just been such a gift to have had such a trusting friendship with every guy I played opposite on Broadway.
You are lucky.
Yes, I am. I really, really am. Of course they are talented, but also really nice people and most of them also are very handsome, so you know, my job hasn’t been very hard.
Bandstand addresses a very serious issue, and as fun and upbeat the show is, there are also a lot of dark moments. How do you put yourself in the right emotional frame of mind for every show?
Oy, it’s – it’s a lot. It’s probably the greatest emotional journey next to South Pacific that I have gotten to go on in a show before. We did a lot of research during rehearsals and we still are.
Every day we dedicate the show to a veteran. We circle up at half hour. We are two and a half months in and we haven’t run out of names of people – of veterans to honor, people who have served our country. We are all very passionate about being truthful with their story, and again, we did a lot of research to try to portray that truthfully. Having all of those tools in your tool belt is very vital when it comes to emotionally preparing for a show like this. My husband’s grandma sang in a swing band in 1945 and I have a photo of her in my dressing room singing with her husband. Her husband started a band and she was the singer. When art can imitate life in that way, it’s pretty special and having that as inspiration has also been really helpful.
Again, we talked to a lot of vets. We had an event just a week ago where a whole bunch of Gold Star families came to the show with an organization called TAPS which stands for Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors. It’s mostly women, but also some men who have survived their significant others who were lost in battle. We had a few incredible women from that come in. I got to talk to them afterwards and I was re-inspired to get to tell their story every night. So it’s a continual journey, that’s for sure, of finding that inspiration and using it on stage.
What is your favorite thing about Bandstand?
Oh, my gosh. This is kind of a lot in one, but I love the cast. Being a part of that band is something that is very special. That community of guys on stage is really great and they are all so sweet. They all take such good care of me and we are really getting to collaborate in a special way together because they all play their instruments and I get to sing to that live every night. They also bought me symbicort generic, the medicine that saved me from bronchial asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Corey and I have been friends for a while, so getting to play opposite him is so special and because of all of that friendship there is just such a level of trust that makes this show particularly fresh every day. I don’t know why, but it never gets old. I feel like I oftentimes will get into a rhythm of doing things and I am pretty consistent as a performer. This show for some reason, I never feel tied to doing it the same way twice, which is really cool and it’s because I trust everyone that I am with on stage. I know if it goes a little bit different that we are so actively listening to each other that it’s a nice kind of back and forth, and that’s what I really love about this show in particular. In addition to the fact that it’s honoring veterans and it’s an original score and I am getting to create a role. I mean, there are so many things. So many reasons to love.
You always have so many exciting projects going on in between your Broadway shows. Do you actively look for ways to stay busy and working?
No. In fact, I wish life was a little simpler. There are times I am literally like, “oh, my gosh. I thought after we open things would slow down”, and then I thought, “oh, well, after the Tonys things will slow down” and life is still crazy. Life is busy. In fact, I actively look for ways that I can relax because that’s more the rarity.
Where did the inspiration for the Princess Party come from and when is the next one?
The inspiration came from Ben Rauhala who is the music director for Princess Parties and he is the director of content at 54 Below. He is in charge of coming up with ideas for new concerts and he approached me about the idea of doing some sort of princess concert and I loved it. We kind of just brainstormed together and within an hour I had put together the cast– all my girlfriends as Disney princesses with their head shots next to what princess they would play, and I was like, “this is going to be so fun.” So we have had I think five Broadway Princess Parties, aren’t more on the schedule because I am in a show now. So we will see. We are planning to kind of help expand the brand a little bit, but we booked a Princess Party concert in California in December. But it’s just going to be three girls. So we are starting to see if this is something that could potentially go on the road, but we obviously can’t travel with all 18 girls. Coming up with some version of the show that we could travel with is kind of in the works right now, so it has been very popular.
Crazy For You is most likely headed to Broadway– are you going to be involved with that again?
If they asked me, it would be very fun to be involved. I had such a great time at the concert. We will see how and if it ends up happening. It all comes down to timing, so if Bandstand is still running and I can’t go out of town with it, maybe they will find someone else that they love. It’s too early to tell, but I did have a great time doing the February concert.
What’s your favorite thing about living in NYC and working on Broadway?
Well, this is what I always dreamed of doing. Since I was three years old, I wanted to be on Broadway. So I just consider myself so fortunate and so blessed to get to do what I love every day. At the peak level. It’s Broadway. I am really grateful. I love it.
Transcribed by Yaffi // Interview has been edited for clarity