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Older, wiser Osmond still has 'Puppy Love'



Published: Sun, April 14, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



Although part of his Powers Auditorium show will be structured, Donny Osmond includes improvisation, so he's leaving some of the song choices all up to you.

By DEBORA SHAULIS

ENTERTAINMENT EDITOR

ONNY OSMOND DOESN'T WANT TOset the world on fire these days. It's enough for him that he still burns to sing.

"I'm not going to be *NSync anymore. I don't want to," Osmond said in a telephone interview. "There's no reason I can't create great music ... I'm having the time of my life now. It'll show in my concerts."

It should show when Osmond performs Wednesday night at Edward W. Powers Auditorium in Youngstown.

Osmond had his *NSync experience during the 1970s, when he was member of the all-brother pop band The Osmonds and as co-host of "The Donny and Marie Show" on ABC. His career trajectory was perfect for VH1's "Behind the Music" series: Rise, meteorlike; fall hard; rebuild gradually; and reach new heights. It all happened in 44 years.

Osmond seems to appreciate being older because he's become wiser. He underscores it often during this 20-minute interview -- he's been in the business for 40 years now.

Thus, he knows that he can experiment in his concerts, but "You can't leave out 'Puppy Love'," he said.

That fact would have bothered him back when he was trying to distance himself from his teen heartthrob era, but not now. For this tour, he's put together a show with enough improvisation to it that fans can yell out the songs they want to hear. "My band hates learning so many songs, but I'm making them do it," he said.

Some surprises

Even Osmond has been surprised by some of the audience's suggestions. A frequent one is "I'll Make A Man Out of You," the song he performed in Disney's 1998 animated movie "Mulan." Osmond was the singing voice of the character Captain Shang; the speaking voice was by actor B.D. Wong.

Many children come to his concerts, and they know him from "Mulan," Osmond said. He's proud of the fact that he's only the third entertainer -- following Elton John and Phil Collins -- to get permission to show Disney movie scenes during his concert.

Osmond was going through stuff stored in his basement at home and found some film of him singing "Go Away, Little Girl" 30 years ago. He's incorporated it into his show as well; he'll sing a duet with himself, he said.

He also performs "Love of My Life," a song by Cleveland native Jim Brickman. Osmond sang it on Brickman's live recording.

Osmond wants to try some new music on his Youngstown audience -- songs that will appear on his next CD that he's been recording in London. It'll be a straight pop record, he said.

When Osmond hasn't been in the studio, he's been capitalizing on a slew of TV opportunities. He was a contestant on a celebrity edition of NBC's reality show "Fear Factor." He and Marie sang "We Are Family" at the Winter Olympics ceremonies in Salt Lake City, and he was host of a Travel Channel special on the sights and sounds around his home state, Utah, which was shown during the Olympics.

'Pyramid' host

Osmond's TV exposure isn't over, either. He'll be the new host for the syndicated game show "$100,000 Pyramid," which is making a comeback this fall. Osmond taped the pilot of it more than a year ago. The syndicator began offering it to TV stations last summer, and they have been "buying like crazy," he said.

Osmond thinks of himself as a singer, first and foremost. He wasn't sure he was the right person for the job. "Then I started analyzing it ... the time frame is ridiculously great," he said. Tapings will take about four days a month. He'll be on TV every day yet still have plenty of time for his music.

"Pat Sajak and Vanna [White] say it's the greatest job in show biz," he added.

Still missing from TV are reruns of "The Donny & amp; Marie Show," the variety program starring him and his only sister. It debuted in 1976 and lasted for four seasons. Asked why the show isn't riding the nostalgia wave on cable channels Nick at Nite or TV Land, Osmond said he only recently licensed it to Sony. The company is working on syndication rights now, he added.

"I specifically held reruns back until now," Osmond said. It's insight he gained from being in the business for 40 years, you know.

Osmond has overcome obstacles as well. At 21, "the very people who helped me get hit records in the '70s said 'Pack it in'," he recalled. He refused and, by the end of the 1980s, was back on Top 40 radio with "Soldier of Love." Then, just when things were starting to click for him again, he struggled with panic attacks while starring in the Broadway musical "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat."

Osmond isn't sure whether resilience is a gift or an acquired skill. "Maybe a little of both," he said. "You also have to have some great people around you to catch the vision you have."

Return trip

This won't be Osmond's first visit to Youngstown. "If you've been doing this for 40 years, you've been everywhere," he said. It was on a previous trip that he met Eddie DeBartolo, son of the late mall magnate Edward J. DeBartolo and former owner of San Francisco 49ers football team.

Will it be an *NSync kind of night for Osmond at Powers? It could be, if those now thirty- and forty-something female fans haven't gotten over their puppy love for him. Osmond is comfortable with it.

"It's fun to see, it's fun to watch," he said. "I went through a period where I didn't want to do any of that stuff. You just kind of embrace it after a while. I have so much fun with it now."

shaulis@vindy.com




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