Top Billing: Donny Osmond

Having excelled at song, dance, stage, screen and everything in-between for half a century, Donny Osmond has never lost sight of what motivates him. “I’m an artist; I’m a singer; I never want to sit back in a rocking chair for the rest of my life,” he shares. “I always have to be climbing another mountain, because it keeps me going—it keeps the artistry in me alive.”

Since his earliest days, the artistry in Osmond has been very much alive. The Utah-born-and-bred entertainer first gained fame at age 5, when he debuted on The Andy Williams Show alongside brothers Alan, Wayne, Merrill, and Jay. “I was asked by Andy to learn an Ella Fitzgerald song, so I was being trained at 5 and 6 years old to emulate all these amazing singers,” recalls Osmond, who, by age 14, was an internationally famous teen idol known for decade-defining hits of the 1970s, including “Puppy Love,” which climbed to No. 3 on the pop charts, and his No. 1 smash, “Go Away Little Girl.”

Osmond soon thereafter joined his sister in cohosting the hit variety TV show The Donny and Marie Show, which ran from 1976 to 1979. The show was so beloved that in 2008, the sibling stars began performing to capacity crowds at Las Vegas’ Flamingo Hotel. “It’s anyone’s guess why we have been so successful,” says Osmond of the Vegas show. “But if I had to put a formula to it, I’d say it’s variety: You under-promise and over-deliver.”

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Those attending Osmond’s show at The Ridgefield Playhouse on March 11 can expect that same level of over-delivery—as well as a few major surprises. “I am bringing elements of Dancing With the Stars with some dancers from our show in Vegas,” says Osmond. “I tell stories from my past, and of course I’ve got to do songs like ‘Puppy Love,’ ‘One Bad Apple,’ and ‘Solider of Love.’ When you come to this show, it’s pure variety. It goes from one end to the other.”

To say family has been important to the singer would be an understatement. One of seven children himself, Osmond and his wife of 38 years, Debra, have five sons of their own, along with eight grandchildren. Although none of his children have followed in his famous footsteps, Osmond says he’s proud of the individual directions their lives have taken. “My wife and I decided long ago that they are going to choose what they do with their lives,” says Osmond.

After family, performance is perhaps closest to Osmond’s heart. Over the years, Osmond has continually reinvented himself, going from teenage heartthrob to game-show host to champion of the hugely popular television show Dancing With the Stars. While it seems that show business has always been in the performer’s blood, he says it’s actually his love of music that has driven him to such heights. “Show business is like an afterthought to music; however, you can’t just love music. You’ve got to put on a show,” he says.

Donny and Marie Osmond perfoRming on their hit prime-time variety show.

Photo by Osmond Entertainment Group / Courtesy: Everett Collection

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With the release of his 60th album—a collection of reimaginings of several famous songs—it seems Osmond has hit his stride in terms of both music and showmanship. “We whittled down a list of about 300 songs, and it was a tough choice because there are a lot of favorites,” says Osmond. “The challenge of doing an album like this is quite unique, since when you do these songs, you have to push the envelope just enough to where you put your own stamp on them.”

If fans have embraced Osmond, there is little doubt Osmond has embraced them in turn. In December, the entertainer rented a theater in Texas so that his fans who could not find a ticket to the new Star Wars film could see the movie alongside their idol. It was a fitting act of kindness that comes eerily full circle, as characters from George Lucas’ signature saga made their first television appearance on The Donny and Marie Show.

Beyond his time on television, Osmond also made a name for himself onstage. He overcame social anxiety disorder to star in more than 2,000 Broadway performances of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat during the 1990s.  “As soon as you embrace the fact that you are well rehearsed and you know what you are doing, you get out there and do the best job you can,” remarks Osmond. “The most important thing is that you have to enjoy it.”

Apparently, Osmond did indeed enjoy his time onstage, as he is currently eyeing a return to the boards. “My next big thing will be on Broadway,” says Osmond. “I want to go back to The Great White Way and do a musical of some sort. I’ve got a couple ideas in mind that I’d like to pursue, so I think this will be [Marie’s and my] last year in Vegas. It’s kind of sad to shut it down, because it has been so successful, but as an artist, you keep wanting to push yourself and challenge yourself.”

It is this hunger for challenge that compelled Donny to undertake his current coast-to-coast tour, which includes this month’s show at The Ridgefield Playhouse.

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When asked why he continues to hit the road on such grueling, multistate tours, Osmond is quick to answer. “Yes [touring] is challenging, and yes, it’s hard, but good things are hard,” he observes. “It makes you feel good as an artist when you have summited that mountain, and I know the feeling of summiting quite a few mountains. Just tell me I can’t do something, and that is exactly what I want to do.”

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