Did Disney Just Kick Laura Osnes Out of Her Own Concert?

When Disney announced this year's Ultimate Princess Celebration, they simultaneously teased a touring concert called Disney Princess: The Concert, which had way too many familiar names in it to be just a coincidence. It was later confirmed that this concert was none other than Laura Osnes's Broadway Princess Party, an intimate event that I had seen twice. I had a great deal of respect for the fact that it celebrated all princess musicals, regardless of which studio owned them, which is why I became concerned when I learned that the show had been sold to the mouse. Laura Osnes would not be the first wide-eyed innocent to sign a contract with Disney having no idea how it might affect her future and reputation. At the time, I seemed to be the only person who was skeptical about the possible negative ramifications of selling out. Now, it seems that Laura Osnes has paid the ultimate price for signing away the passion project that she started with music director Benjamin Rauhala at Feinstein's/54 Below roughly five years ago. Disney has quietly replaced her role in the first leg of the tour with Christy Altomare, who originated the role of Anastasia on Broadway, in a decision that was likely inspired by a recent controversy involving Osnes.

Laura Osnes in the Broadway Princess Party

A little over a week ago, a Broadway gossip column called Page Six ran an article claiming that Laura Osnes had been let go of an upcoming concert called "Crazy For You" because she "refused" to get vaccinated. Osnes was quick to defend herself in a now-famous Instagram post where she clarified that she withdrew of her own volition. "I was informed that protocols had changed, and I would now need proof of vaccination to participate. I was disappointed but responded that I would have to withdraw, as I have not yet gotten the vaccine." She also stated in her Instagram post that she was not given the option to take a COVID test prior to the concert. "I would have tested in a heartbeat -- something I have been doing for months, and will continue to do so, in order to keep working safely." It all sounds like the "Crazy For You" concert situation was very civil, but the damage to Osnes's reputation had already been done. Once word got out, Disney likely became worried that parents would accuse them of allowing a "superspreader" into their concert, which takes place at a delicate time when live shows are only starting to reopen after recent events. Whether this decision was made by Disney or Osnes herself is unknown at this time, but a Disney rep stated that the concert "will follow Disney Concerts' COVID-19 safety policy, requiring cast and touring crew to be fully vaccinated, and will adhere to all local health protocols at each tour stop." They were also quick to replace the promo photos on their website, which were probably prepared in advance because Christy Altomare had already been scheduled to take Laura's place during the 2022 leg of the tour.

Disney Princess Concert performers Courtney Reed, Christy Altomare, Aisha Jackson, and Susan Egan
Regardless of your stance on vaccines, it seems like a pretty low blow for Disney to buy out the Broadway Princess Party and then tell one of the founding members that she is no longer able to participate. Laura Osnes never quite fit in with the three women who premiered the show. Even though Laura was the headliner, she was the only one who did not initiate a Disney Princess role on Broadway. Her enormously talented and kind-hearted co-stars, Courtney Reed and Susan Egan, were the first to star in the roles of Princess Jasmine and Belle, respectively, for Disney on Broadway. Laura Osnes played Cinderella in a revival of Rodgers and Hammerstein's production from the '50s, a show that Disney adapted in a made-for-TV movie starring Brandy in 1997 that Andrew Lloyd Webber recently released his own reimagining of. As someone who was almost--but not quite--Disney royalty, Laura Osnes most likely started the Broadway Princess Party so she could become "part of that world" and sing some of her favorite Disney Princess songs alongside other women who had previously performed as Disney Princesses. I relate to that desire to belong all too well and can only imagine the excitement that Osnes felt she was offered the prospect to make the show an official Disney Princess production and the heartbreak she must have experienced when she realized she could no longer be a part of it.

I have tickets for the Disney Princess Concert in February 2022, and personally, I'm looking forward to seeing Christy Altomare perform live. I've already seen Laura Osnes in this show twice, and everything I've seen of Christy online has been incredible. She is a perfect soundalike for Liz Callaway, who sang for Anastasia in the original Don Bluth film. Though the ladies of the Broadway Princess Party performed songs from both Anastasia and Thumbelina in the original show, I'm not sure what Disney's policy will be on this as they now own both of these films but have not promoted either of them to official Disney Princess status. The Anastasia production that Christy Altomare headlined is also not part of the official Disney on Broadway series, even though it contains songs that Disney now owns the rights to, so they can bend either way they want with them for the concert. I'm curious to see what sort of changes Disney will make to this once intimate production, but I can't help thinking the replacement of Laura Osnes is likely to create at least a little drama amongst these sugar-sweet drama-free actresses.

This announcement comes at a particularly awkward time for Disney. As part of the Ultimate Princess Celebration, tomorrow marks the first day of World Princess Week, a week-long event aimed at inspiring princess fans to be courageous and kind. This is juxtaposed by a cruel irony in the way that Disney has treated its actresses as of late including both Laura Osness and Scarlett Johansson. Their plans to start charging for FastPasses in their parks, and, in some cases, for individual rides follow in the footsteps of other poor decisions they made prior to the lockdown. As much as I want to be excited for World Princess Week, it seems like nothing more than a label they are using to cover up their lack of princess-inspired decisions as of late. Even the Disney Princess Remixed special, which will premiere at 7:30PM on Disney Channel this Friday, August 27th, seems to be nothing more than a lineup of mediocre pop remixes of some of my favorite princess songs akin to the recent onslaught of live-action remakes and their failed attempts to replace the magic and wonder of the originals. However, this is only my opinion, and I hope that other princess fans are less jaded than I have become. Do you support Disney's recent decisions about Laura Osnes and their theme parks? Let me know in the comments!

Update: Since I created this post, it was announced that the first leg of this concert tour containing all of the shows that Laura was supposed to participate in was canceled in its entirety.

Comments

Anonymous said…
I think it is very sad that Laura is unable to perform. She is the only reason I bought a ticket to the concert. I hope she is at least getting some compensation for being a creator of the original show. The rest of the cast is fine, but Laura is the ultimate host and performer! It’s also a shame that her personal health information was leaked just to create a social media story!! On the other hand she has chosen to stand by her conviction and must be ok with suffering the consequences of being unable to perform. She can take comfort in the fact that she has already been very successful in her career even if she will no longer be in the spotlight. Her voice is exceptionally beautiful and she sparkles on stage. Nobody can take that away from her! Personally I think it’s Disney’s loss!
Almost a year gone by and the story of what actually went on in the Hamptons when Laura told them that she had not had the vaccine has remain a secret. Nobody seems to know the background to the story, so I’ll give it. In February, 2017, multiple Tony award winning Director and choreographer Susan Stroman put on a one night performance for the 25th anniversary of the musical Crazy for You. A light comedy full of Gershwin songs, it had been a smash hit on Broadway. The 25th anniversary performance at Lincoln Center was attended by a lot of Broadway royalty. This one night was enormously well received. In January 1918, Stroman workshopped the full musical with Osnes and Yazbeck continuing as the stars. Everyone expected a Broadway announcement, but it never came. Most likely they had just not raised enough money. The one night performance of excerpts from the musical, that was held in the ritzy Hamptons, I guess was a last try at attracting investors. I think there must’ve been a blow up there, with Tony possibly or even with Susan, who is a very nice woman. Laura was warned by many that she might be throwing away her whole career just as she reached her peak. Was there was an argument with Tony? The two of them had worked together after the appearance together in 2017, and had performed two successful runs of a cabaret act that at times was reminiscent of Astaire and Rogers. Laura just revealed in a post that the events of last August had been so upsetting that she had not felt like performing live. I cannot help but wonder if her husband wasn’t behind all this. She would’ve chosen loyalty to him over a setback to and maybe even the end of her career. One hopes that it was not her husband, who after ruining her career, just made her more dependent on him than before. It’s looking like she won’t even get any Hallmark films this year. Although they were far beneath her talent level, she enjoyed them and they probably paid pretty well. Is there a career on Broadway left? Probably not, Unless some of the powerful people that she worked with successfully in the past decided to give her a chance. This would include Stroman, and Director Bartley Sher, who had selected her to replace Kelli O’Hara in the lead in the very prestigious and successful revival of South Pacific that opened in 2018.
Lisa Dawn said…
Sounds complicated

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