By John Benson
Four decades have passed since Donny Osmond first emerged out of the shadow of his family group to become a ’70s Tiger Beat cover boy. However, the audiences are apparently just as rabid these days as they were during the “Puppy Love” era.
“We crossed a line last night,” said Osmond, calling from Tampa, Fla., with a laugh. “It was pretty funny and interesting. Usually it’s the girls but there was this guy, this linebacker, who was so excited to be there. Now this is really odd to me, but he comes down the aisle and gives me the biggest bear hug. The audience died laughing. He’s like, ‘Donny, you rock.’ That was kind of weird.”
Kind of weird, surreal and exciting all describe Osmond’s career that has had more comebacks than a boomerang. The 55-year-old entertainer reinvented himself with his 1989 hit song “Soldier of Love,” an early ’90s role in “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” and as the 2009 “Dancing with the Stars” winner.
When examining Osmond’s career, the common denominator has been pleasing audiences, which began when he was a small child in the ’60s appearing on “The Andy Williams Show.”
Today the singer is teaming up with his sister, Marie, for a family Christmas affair. “Donny & Marie Christmas” comes to the area for shows Thursday at the Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh and Monday at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland.
Originally conceived for Broadway four years ago as an offshoot to its Las Vegas production, the Yuletide special was limited to theaters before the duo upped the ante this year with a full arena touring production.
Despite the fact it’s a seasonal show, Osmond said there’s one unexpected secret he learned years ago that remains true today.
“You don’t want to give an audience too much Christmas music,” said Osmond. “You have to make sure you balance it out right. It seems every Christmas show you have to give people an insulin shot at the end because it’s too sugary and sweet. Also, it’s very important to make sure you do the hits, even though it’s not Christmas music. You have to give people what they want.”
That notion carries over into “Donny & Marie Christmas,” which Osmond said includes tons of dancing. In fact, the entire Las Vegas show dancers are on tour.
“One thing we’ve learned over the years is that producers just throw money at a show,” Osmond said. “What happens is you overlook the heart and soul of a show. So there are times when you shut everything down and you just sing a song. A spotlight on a microphone, and let the lyrics of a song come out.
“Then you hit them again with a huge amount of production. With this show, there’s a lot of audience interaction. I walk through the crowd and sing three or four songs.”
As far as proper behavior if an audience member is lucky enough to run into Osmond in the aisle, he laughed, “Just give me a high five. That’ll suffice.”