For The Osmonds, family isn’t just important: it’s everything.Hailing from a small town in Utah, they shot to the stratosphere during their tenure on The Andy Williams Show in the 1960s and have kept climbing the charts ever since. Having sold over 100 million records, The Osmonds became household names, known for their clean-cut image and teen idol status – and now, Jay Osmond himself is bringing their story to the stage in a brand new musical which is currently touring across the UK.
Directed by Shaun Kerrison and choreographed by Olivier Award-winning Bill Deamer, this “living memoir” charts the rise and fall (and rise again) of the legendary all-singing, all-dancing supergroup. Written and produced by Jay Osmond, who not only played drums in the band but co-wrote and choreographed many of their songs, the musical crams 50+ years and 30+ megahits in just over 2 hours. It’s a nostalgic, whirlwind tour through some of the most memorable tracks of the 60s and 70s, from Puppy Love to Crazy Horses.
Mentored by Walt Disney, Chuck Norris, and Elvis Presley, the Osmonds were finding their feet in the industry at the same time that they were finding their feet as young men. As the Osmonds’ brood grew so did the Osmonds brand, with youngsters Donny, Marie and Jimmy embarking on their own successful solo careers. While family was paramount to them,it wasn’t always easy, as we see from George Osmond’s (Charlie Allen) militaristic parenting style. In a clever twist, the Osmond brothers and their younger counterparts often share the stage here, with the older incarnations of the characters looking back on pivotal moments in their youth and – in one of the show’s most effective and affecting scenes – actually perform a song with their younger selves.
The cast is superb across the board. As Jay Osmond, theincredible Alex Lodge leads the ensemble with aplomb, breaking the fourth wall and bringing the audience in on the jokes and the dance routines. It’s clear that the cast share just as special a bond as the Osmonds themselves: Henry Firth as Wayne (stepping in for Danny Nattrass), Tristan Whincup as Donny (stepping in for Joseph Peacock), Ryan Anderson as Merrill, and Jamie Chatterton as Alan, all bring energy, verve and style to their performance of Let Me In, One Bad Apple, and Yo-Yo. While the set (though eye-catching) could maybe benefit from little more inventiveness, and the pacing could be stronger in parts, the stellar performances make this an absolute must-see.
Georgia Lennon lends a little bit of country to Marie Osmond’s ballad Paper Roses while Lyle Wren performs a hilarious version of Jimmy Osmond’s novelty hit Long Haired Lover From Liverpool. Huge kudos must go to the supremely talented actors playing the young Osmonds: Nicolas Teixeira, Oliver Forde, Jack Sherran, Louis Stow, and Lonan Johnson.Their pitch-perfect harmonies are absolutely sublime, and theduet getween young Donny (Teixiera) and Andy Williams (Dance Captain Matt Ives, stepping in for Alex Cardall) was an adorable highlight. (Ives also plays about twenty other characters, all equally distinct and all equally brilliant).
The sincerity of the Osmonds has always been a key part of their appeal – “we call them friends, not fans”, Jay says – and his decision to premiere the show in the UK was inspired in no small part due to the Osmond-mania that met them in Blighty, with admirers climbing up flagpoles and abseiling down hotels just to get a glimpse of the brothers. And on this particular leg of their UK tour, disaster struck when due to sickness/injury, they happened to be nine cast members down on the opening night of their Welsh premiere (even Jamie Chatterton, who plays Alan, had to be cleared by physio to perform due to an injury). So they had to make a hard decision: cancel the show, perform it as a concert, or put on the show with a reduced cast. The decided that the show must go on – and I’m thrilled that they did, because they gave the performance of a lifetime. If you want to Love Them For A Reason, you couldn’t have a better one.