Can't Help Loving Donny & Marie
by John Coulbourn
July 7, 2011
|TORONTO - After more than four decades in various limelights, their particular brand of sibling ribaldry lite is by now burned indelibly into the public consciousness. So, it is small wonder that excitement was high among their fans as the clock ticked down toward Wednesday night's opening of Donny & Marie Live!, in an exclusive limited engagement at the Four Season Centre — the focal point of Dancap's summer season.
It is, it turns out — and no surprise here — a vehicle for singing siblings and sometime-sensations Donny and Marie Osmond and, in a world where nostalgia remains one of the most powerful narcotics, a lot of people are clamouring to climb aboard and lose themselves in the smoke.
And small wonder, for not only are Donny and Marie a little bit country and a little bit rock 'n' roll, they are also just a little bit naughty and a whole lot of nice as they romp through a selection of their greatest hits, collective and individual. With smiles big enough to re-tile Liberace's grandest grand, they've still got it — whatever it might be.
And while time has not passed them by, it is fair, nonetheless, to say that it is content to sit on them more gently than it does the rest of us mere mortals. In the 30 years since they were staples of Friday night television, they've aged, it seems, one year for every two that have elapsed.
If their faces are still familiar, the songs are doubly so. Paper Roses, Puppy Love and a host of hits from their younger years share pride of place with newer, occasionally edgier works such as Crazy Horses, Soldier of Love and Morning Side of the Mountain.
Slickly staged by Richard Jay Alexander, with musical direction by Jerry Williams, this is a musical extravaganza worthy of a Vegas stage, which is, not surprisingly where it originated — on the stage of the Flamingo Las Vegas, in fact, where it will return at the end of its two-week Toronto run.
With eight musicians and eight dancers, choreographed by Jaymz Tuaileva to showcase two of Dancing With The Stars best-known alums, without ever upstaging them, it's a high-stepping affair perfect for high-rollers-for-a-night.
But D&ML! is more than merely an evening of song and dance — and in the process, at least for those who haven't drunk too deeply at the Osmond well, it's also somewhat less.
For rather than taking us on a simple stroll down memory lane, this show quickly becomes a motorcade down memory's super highway, complete with three video screens that offer a more or less constant retrospective of the Osmonds' decades in the limelight, at least when they aren't offering us close-ups of the way they look tonight.
It's almost as if they feel that much of their fan base wouldn't recognize them in the flesh without video prompting.
Add to that some occasionally wrong-headed programming — such as Andrew Lloyd Webber's operatic Pie Jesu, sung by Marie but so incredibly overproduced that one suspects it would sound the same if Donnie sang it — and it all ends up overwhelming rather than merely entertaining.
Particularly for the uninitiated (few of whom admittedly might be drawn to this show), it's not so much a taste of nostalgia as an overdose.
Donny and Marie, of course, are no strangers to Vegas, and their relentless wholesomeness notwithstanding, they might heed the injunction that what happens in Vegas should stay in Vegas — and then postulate that it might apply as much to its shows as its sins.
NB: In a touch of serendipity, Donny & Marie Live! previewed in Toronto 17 years to the day after Marie opened at the Hummingbird Centre in a touring production of The Sound of Music.
And the world, indeed, goes 'round.