Detroit Holiday Show Means A Lot To Donny Osmond
Detroit Free Press
by Joan Marcus
November 13, 2011
Donny and Marie Osmond will perform a Motown medley as well as seasonal songs in their holiday show. / JOAN MARCUS
'Donny & Marie -- Christmas in Detroit'
7:30 p.m. Nov. 29-Dec. 1, 8 p.m. Dec. 2, 3 & 8 p.m. Dec. 3, 4 p.m.
Just before Donny and Marie Osmond take the stage later this month to present their holiday show at the Fox Theatre, the audience will be confronted with a series of projected images of modern catastrophes.
"The tsunami, food problems, economic issue," Donny says of the photos. "These are serious things happening in the world today."
Then the brother-and-sister team will stroll out and say the magic words: "Stop! Stop! Stop! For two hours, let's get away from this and enjoy the spirit of Christmas."
The show's somber overture is an antidote of sorts to the syrupy sweetness that even the Osmonds concede sometimes characterizes their performances.
"Let's face it," says Donny. "Sometimes we walk out and the entire audience needs an insulin shot."
"Donny and Marie -- Christmas in Detroit" is a holiday edition of the popular show the duo performs often in Las Vegas. The event, which features dancers and a nine-piece band, also duplicates some of the fun that marked the popular TV variety show they hosted in the late 1970s.
Donny, 53, began performing with the Osmond Brothers as a child in the mid-1960s before embarking on a solo career in the early 1970s that resulted in hits like "Go Away Little Girl" and "Puppy Love." The last time he appeared in Detroit was with the "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" tour he headlined in the 1990s. He spoke with the Free Press last week about the holiday show, his relationship with Marie and the trappings of celebrity.
QUESTION: The Donny and Marie tour is stopping in only two cities -- Detroit and Chicago -- over this holiday season. Why us?
ANSWER: I often ask people to stay after the Vegas shows. I call it my little focus group. I ask people where they're from, and Detroit and Chicago come up all the time, lots of Canadians, too.
I wanted to go back to the places I did "Joseph." Back in 1995 or 1996, just before I came to Detroit, I was in Boston doing "Joseph" and I hemorrhaged my vocal cords -- the same thing that Adele is going through right now. I didn't have to have an operation, but just went through three months of silence. It was at the Fox that I did my very first show after going through utter hell, thinking my voice was done for the rest of my life. So this was my comeback show. I love Detroit.
Q: When you and Marie mounted your holiday show on Broadway last year, some reviewers noted that there weren't that many seasonal songs. What will we be seeing in Detroit?
A: Yeah, I read that, too. Let me put it this way: We could put a bunch of Christmas songs together like "Jingle Bells," and then all clap our hands for two hours. That's the worst thing we could do. There will be Christmas songs, but also a lot of other music, too. We'll even do a Motown medley, different from what we do in Chicago.
Q: That playful rivalry between you and Marie that we used to see on the TV show: How much of that is real? How much is scripted?
A: (Laughing) Oh, it's real all right. It's really serious. Whatever happens happens. It's organic. Here's a perfect example: When we started our show in Vegas, we hired some of the best writers in the business to come up with dialogue that would be funny, clever and make the show work. So we tried it the first night and it was awful. I remember walking into Marie's dressing room. I threw the script in the garbage can and said, "Now let's say it the way we want to say it." That's when it started working. You can't manufacture this stuff.
Q: Like Marie, you did a stint on "Dancing With the Stars." What did you learn from that experience?
A: I learned about muscles I didn't think I ever had. Really, it was the hardest thing I had ever done in my life. It was wonderful from a career point of view. It opened up a door to a whole new audience -- I mean literally. Over Halloween, during trick or treat, I go to the door and there are all these little kids. They had no idea it was my house. I didn't think they knew who I was. I open the door and it's like: "You were on 'Dancing With the Stars!' "
Q: As a former teen idol, what advice would you give to Justin Bieber if you had the chance?
A: I would say hang in there. Take a chill pill. The problem is the tabloids. Like this new thing that just came out about him maybe fathering a child in California. First of all, we're living in a very cynical world. Me, I think maybe that's just someone making publicity, his management or something trying to roughen up his image a little bit. It's all about the image of perception. It's a game.
Q: Were you ever asked to participate in this kind of image-changing game?
A: So many times. There was this one time where my publicist wanted me to get busted for drugs. He said it would give me a lot of street cred. I went home because I don't throw any idea out and considered it for about a nanosecond. OK, it would have given me street cred, but what about the fallout? What would my kids have asked me later on? What would my grandkids say? Why did you sell out? Was it worth losing the reputation with my family?
There are two types of popularity. You can be a star or a celebrity. It's easy to be a celebrity. You just do something a little outrageous and get in the press. I could be in the tabloids. I could be Ron Kardashian, and it would do enormous things for my career. But I ask you: How long is it gonna last?