The Osmonds: A New Musical – Bord Gais Energy Theatre – Review
by Fran Winston
Bord Gais Energy Theatre, Grand Canal Square, Docklands, Dublin 2
From March 22nd-26th. Shows 7.30pm nightly. Matinees 2.30pm 23rd, 24th and 26th March. Tickets from €16.
The Osmonds were a bit before my time but of course, I’m aware of them. Who hasn’t seen the footage of the five brothers rocking out in Elvis style jumpsuits to Crazy Horses? Or Donny Osmond in his baker boy hat singing Puppy Love. And let’s not forget their brother Little Jimmy’s Top of the Pops appearance singing his number one hit Long Haired Lover From Liverpool. Also, there was the Donny and Marie Show (’75-’79) which used to regularly pop up on reruns. Basically, before the Kardashians existed the Osmonds had this family branding thing down to a tee.
This musical is told through the gaze of Jay Osmond who wrote the story, he was the drummer or “the one in the middle” as he is described here. We see their earliest days as a barbershop quartet, where they were trying to raise money to buy better hearing aids for their two older brothers who were deaf. We see their early appearances on The Andy Williams Show (at this point the brothers are played by a quintet of adorable child actors who had the audience collectively “ahhhhing”). Later, there is the teen mania that surrounded them from the early to mid-70s, right up to a reunion for their 50th anniversary back in 2007.
Given that they were known for their extremely clean-cut image and that they were devout Mormons (something that isn’t mentioned too often in the show lest you are worried about religious undertones), their story isn’t the most rock ‘n’ roll ever. There are no TVs being thrown out of hotel windows, no drunken falling outs and, despite the hundreds of thousands of screaming girls, there is no exploitation of groupies. Rather this is a story of family dynamics as each member of the large brood tries to find their place in a group where “it doesn’t matter who’s out front once it’s an Osmond”. And although their life may have appeared perfect on the surface, they did have highs and lows alongside the back to back hits.
And of course, the hits are all here. One Bad Apple, Down by the Lazy River, Crazy Horses, Let Me In, Love Me for a Reason, (We’re) Having a Party, Puppy Love, Long Haired Lover From Liverpool, Paper Roses and many more feature. In fact, I hadn’t realised just how many hits the family had. One clear thread that runs through this production, is that the Osmonds are a family, not a group.
Alex Lodge takes on the role of narrator Jay and is supported by Ryan Anderson as Merrill, Jamie Chatterton as Alan, Danny Nattrass as Wayne and Joseph Peacock as Donny, with Georgia Lennon as Marie Osmond. All channel the famous energy and enthusiasm, with smiles set to maximum, of the Osmonds and do a great job bringing the story to life. The audience seemed to agree on the night I attended singing along and getting more than a little nostalgic.
After 60 years as pop-culture fixtures, the Osmonds seem to have gone from cheesy to credible and their music holds up surprisingly well. This may not be as dark as some similar biographical musicals that are on world stages at the moment but it is extremely good fun and a fascinating insight into the close-knit dynamics of the enigmatic family. Perhaps I benefitted from not knowing much about The Osmonds going into this but I really enjoyed it. It was infectious, it was escapism and it was entertaining. You don’t have to be a fan to enjoy this and you’ll definitely leave with a smile on your face.