From Vegas to Columbus: Donny Osmond discusses Mershon Auditorium show on Saturday

Filled with songs and memories spanning the singer's career, Donny Osmond's award-winning Las Vegas show comes to Mershon Auditorium on Saturday.
Filled with songs and memories spanning the singer's career, Donny Osmond's award-winning Las Vegas show comes to Mershon Auditorium on Saturday.

Mention Donny Osmond's name and you're likely to hear about different incarnations of the performer that reflect the many facets of his 61-year career.

Those of a certain age recall him as the adorable, saucer-eyed moppet who made his debut singing "You Are My Sunshine" at age 5 on "The Andy Williams Show."

Others (including this writer) associate him with his family group, The Osmonds, their Saturday-morning cartoon, his status as a dreamy teen idol crooning about "Puppy Love," purple socks and of course, his TV variety show with sister Marie.

Then there's a much younger legion of admirers who know Osmond simply as "Peacock." (More about that later.)

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However he's remembered, it's apparent, Osmond's appeal transcends age and generation.

In addition to the accomplishments above, he has entertained audiences on Broadway, showed the young'uns up by winning "Dancing with the Stars" in 2009 and recorded 65 albums.

He dazzled in the 1990s during a record-breaking six-year run in the title role of "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat." In December, he revisits the musical, this time playing the Elvis-inspired role of Pharaoh.

Osmond currently headlines a solo residency at Harrah's Las Vegas that the public voted Best New Show, Best Performer, Best Resident Headliner, Best Family-Friendly Show and Best Production in the Best of Las Vegas honors from the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

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Now he's taken the show on the road for a two-month tour, stopping in 40-plus cities, including Columbus, where he'll appear at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Mershon Auditorium. Ticket prices start at $67.50 at ticketmaster.com.

The affable, eternally youthful Osmond discussed his long career, his upcoming show and more during a recent conversation with the Dispatch.

Question: What are you most looking forward to on this tour?

Donny Osmond: Other than the fact of bringing my award-winning Las Vegas show to Columbus — I sound like I'm bragging here — I'm looking forward to allowing people to see why it's an award-winning show because not everyone comes to Las Vegas. I want as many people to see this as possible!

Columbus has a very special spot in my heart. It was the very first concert (The Osmonds) did after "One Bad Apple" in the early '70s and after the release of (late '80s hit) "Soldier of Love." WNCI really spearheaded that whole campaign.

Question: How will you convey the vibe of a Vegas show to Columbus, Ohio?

Osmond: It's called 61 years of show-business experience — I know what I'm doing, baby! (Laughs)

Donny Osmond, who's set to perform at Mershon Auditorium on Saturday, has performed previously in Columbus and says the city holds a special place in his heart.
Donny Osmond, who's set to perform at Mershon Auditorium on Saturday, has performed previously in Columbus and says the city holds a special place in his heart.

Question: Your show received silver and gold ratings in the Best of Las Vegas. Why do you feel it has such broad appeal?

Osmond: I think it appeals to so many generations because if you really dig down deep into my career, it's 61 years of show business, so there's appeal to so many different demographics.

Younger people will hear me do "I'll Make a Man Out of You" (from the Disney film "Mulan") and say, "I had no idea that was you."

Question: How much of your show is devoted to older material versus newer work?

Osmond: It's well-balanced, not chronological. Different songs are peppered in as we go through my entire career. I open with "Soldier of Love," then "Puppy Love," which is what I'm really known for by a certain generation, then "Who" from my last album. In the first three songs, you get the whole thing.

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Question: Speaking of your last album, it's called "Start Again." Is there a meaning behind the title?

Osmond: If you read the lyrics of the song "Start Again," it says we all make mistakes in life. I hear time and time again that this song has become a mantra for a lot of people who made bad choices in life. It's OK, whatever it may be. Pick yourself up and start again.

I have suffered severely with anxiety, especially in my 30s, which came out in my autobiography. People who have gone through the same thing have come out and said, "Thank you for helping us start again."

Question: How did you start the segment in your show when you take audience requests? What do they ask for?

Osmond: Years and years ago, I had this idea: "Wouldn't it be fun if the audience controlled the show?" You have to have an amazing band — and I do! It's about 20 minutes or so.

The requests depend on the age group. I had these little kids, they couldn't have been more than 10, 12, 13 years old. They had T-shirts on that said "Peacock" — they had seen me on "The Masked Singer"! (Osmond placed second on the celebrities-in-disguise singing show in 2019.) So, they wanted me to sing newer songs, something from ("Start Again").

The older generation likes songs like (the 1971 No. 1 hit) "Go Away Little Girl."

I tell a lot of backstories for the songs people call out for. Like, maybe they've heard (1972's) "Ben" on one of my albums; that song was written for me, but I was on tour, so they offered it to Michael Jackson and it was his first No. 1 solo hit. "One Bad Apple" was offered to The Jackson 5, but (The Osmonds) ended up recording it. We sort of switched.

Donny Osmond's stage show, which comes to Mershon Auditorium, received gold ratings for Best Show, Best Performer/Resident Headliner and Best Production in the Best of Las Vegas, as well as a silver rating for Best Family-Friendly Show.
Donny Osmond's stage show, which comes to Mershon Auditorium, received gold ratings for Best Show, Best Performer/Resident Headliner and Best Production in the Best of Las Vegas, as well as a silver rating for Best Family-Friendly Show.

Question: Besides your music, what can people expect from your show?

Osmond: Well, when you win "Dancing with the Stars," people expect you to dance! (Laughs) I also do a rap, which is a fan favorite of the show — your first thought is, "This is gonna be really weird!" I put my entire six decades of show biz into a 10-minute rap and everything I say, you see visually.

The audience reaction the first time I did it was funny. They were looking at me like zombies and I thought, "This number is bombing," but at the end of it, the crowd went crazy. I realized nobody had time to react because it's so fast. By the time they react to something on the screen, I've moved on.

The way it's paced and the arc of this show is pretty phenomenal. (Fun fact: Osmond is a tech geek who helped rewrite the lighting software for his stage show.)

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Question: How do you keep your performances fresh after 61 years?

Osmond: Once people know you for a certain thing, you're in a pigeonhole, so it's a constant education. I learned when I was performing "Joseph" that you have to keep reminding yourself it doesn't matter how many times you've sung it before, you keep it fresh.

That trained me and honed my skills to give 100% at every performance. I'm gonna quit the biz if I can't give 100% every show.

bpaschal@dispatch.com

This article originally appeared on The Columbus Dispatch: Singer Donny Osmond to perform at Mershon Auditorium on June 22

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