Story by Jay Osmond
Book by Julian Bigg & Shaun Kerrison
Music by The Osmond Family
One hundred million records, twenty-eight albums, television icons, and a star on the Hollywood walk of fame. One entertainment family empire.
But how much do we genuinely know about the Osmonds? Hell, how many of us even know all their names? Well according to last night’s Festival Theatre: it’s safe to say that a wave of appreciative fans certainly do.
Merrill, Alan, Jay, Wayne, and Donny; The Osmonds. Oh, and Marie and Jimmy. And a couple of others… From their emergence at the hands of Walt Disney to the glitz and glamour of television and beyond, The Osmonds Musical takes a whirlwind tour across the family legacy as a whole – undoubtedly skipping aspects – and who can blame creator (and middle brother), Jay Osmond, there’s a heck of a lot to get through. Unsurprisingly, a Jukebox musical which leans more so into the musicality than it does performative, The Osmonds isn’t set to revolutionise the genre – but when times are tough, and a song sits in your heart; sometimes that’s all we need.
Certainly, for this recount, Jay takes a more central role – not only as the narrator and guide through the musical, but as the show’s inspiration and story creative, placing himself as the listener of the family rather than the speaker. Playing the role remarkably well, Alex Lodge offers a smooth rapport with the audience and a more grounded sense of dramatic performance to the entire show. Further, the five ‘main’ brothers in the band have a pleasant nature and relationship, even with Alex Cardell filling in as a stubborn and headstrong Alan Osmond.
But for the boy band spectacular unfolding onstage, Georgia Lennon’s role as Marie stands out above the popped collars as the production’s vocal powerhouse. Marie’s role, though present, is severely underplayed outside of her presence alongside brother Donny in their four-season television show. It’s a waste of Lennon, whose control, and vocals of Paper Roses, or in conjuncture with Joseph Peacock’s Donny, really do set her apart as a powerhouse country performer.
An emphasis is placed on Jay and Donny, with Merrill and Alan having a more diverse role in the latter half. Wayne has little to a genuine substance in the show. Ryan Anderson’s Merrill receives much of the show’s pathos, the bridge between the glitz and good times and the harsh reality of such a showbiz-heavy lifestyle. Taking the family motto ‘It doesn’t matter who’s in front, as long as it’s an Osmond’ a touch to heart, Shaun Kerrison’s direction initially struggles to uplift the individual nature of each of the characters outside the more obvious like Marie or Donny. Indeed, many of the show’s special guests from Andy Williams to studio executives all blend into the same suit-wearing, broad-shouldered man.
It’s only near the end where the comradery and familial strains boil over as arguments fray and emotions combust over the issues this mantra has led towards. Facing financial ruin, the entire family is tied together in the decisions made by the few, evoking a more explosive atmosphere of envy and anger – but just as quickly, it’s all shelved so the production can return to the jukebox elements and work towards the finale. It’s a let-down of the nuance, where the required sense of dramatic tension and ‘truth’ behind the squeaky-clean image can’t help but fall back into the Osmond framework of wholesome entertainment.
But it’s remarkably tight in terms of this wholesomeness and on the entertainment front. Fans of the band, and those who find their tunes ring a few bells, cannot help but appreciate both the visual nature of the production and the feel-good factor which comes over from the cast. Lucy Osborne’s set and costume design is dripping in technicolour glory, with the vivid rainbow aesthetic of the families’ seventies prime-time image beamed out into the world. It’s still a clean and simple set, given dimension by the additional frames and borders to stretch the stage as it moves from television, to recording studios, and into the family home itself.
This will speak to specific audiences more than others, and for those glimmering embers which re-ignite the hearts of age-old fans, The Osmonds is a kindly and bouncing nostalgia hit – one which doesn’t seek to rock the boat, but rather rock the room. This is a thoroughly well-presented show, by far worth the ticket price to both reminisce and relax – but save your energy for a standing ovation of Crazy Horses.
Kindly, Bouncing Nostalgia
The Osmonds: A New Musical runs at the Festival Theatre until September 24th
Tickets for which may be obtained here.