Tinker Bell and the Great Fairy Rescue DVD Review

Published on SoCal.com

  For many years, the only image most people had of Tinker Bell was of the headstrong, bell-voiced fairy who loved Peter Pan and held a major grudge against Wendy Darling. She was rude, impudent and had a major attitude: in short, she was a real brat.

Despite her flaws, Tinker Bell remained hugely popular. It was no surprise then, following the success of the Disney Princess franchise, that the next move was to launch Disney Fairies with 2008’s DVD release Tinker Bell, followed by 2009’s Tinker Bell and the Lost Treasure.

The third DVD in this series, Tinker Bell and the Great Fairy Rescue (Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, MSRP: $29.99 or 2-disc Blu-ray/DVD combo pack, MSRP: $39.99) finds the fairies headed to the mainland as summer arrives. Soon after arriving in fairy camp (hidden from human eyes inside a huge tree), Tinker Bell (voiced by Mae Whitman) is warned to stay away from humans. The sight of an automobile rolling down the road proves too irresistible, however, and Tink is off to investigate.

Her frenemy Vidia (Pamela Adlon) follows along, both trying to talk Tinker Bell out of her adventure and relishing her disobedience. Tinker Bell’s curiosity eventually leads to her capture by a little girl named Lizzy (Lauren Mote), who is summering in the cottage across the field from fairy camp.

Lizzy has believed in fairies her entire life, much to the chagrin of her scientifically-minded father, Dr. Griffiths (Michael Sheen). When the young girl proudly tries to show her father the real live fairy she’s captured, she finds him studying a butterfly specimen and realizes that if he knew about Tink, he’d put her on display in a museum. Instead, she takes her to her room, and Tink is placed in an old birdcage to avoid becoming a meal for a fat housecat. Watching from outside, Vidia is horrified and races back to camp to round up help.

Meanwhile, Tinker Bell warms up to Lizzy, whose great belief in fairies is evident by the many figurines and drawings covering her walls. The fairy soon feels compelled to correct some misconceptions about her kind, despite a few minor communication challenges (every time Tinker Bell speaks, Lizzy only hears ringing bells). Over a rainy afternoon, the two fill a field journal full of “scientific facts” about fairies.

In the meantime, Vidia reaches fairy camp and gathers the others to mount a rescue attempt. The pouring rain makes it impossible to fly, and the meadow is flooded, so it takes some real inspiration to find a solution--fueled, of course, by “faith, trust and pixie dust.”

What follows is an adventure that is bolder than any of the previous Tinker Bell movies, and more fraught with danger. While Tinker Bell is befriending a human, her fairy friends are navigating waterfalls, dodging car tires and playing a literal game of cat-and-mouse with Mr. Twitches. There are also scenes of Tinker Bell flying around inside a moving car that might cause some anxiety.

Though Tinker Bell and the Great Fairy Rescue is a straight-to-DVD release, it is theatrical quality and worthy of its Disney heritage. Of the three Tinker Bell features, this one offers the biggest emotional payoff, as Lizzy’s father turns from “Without proof, it’s just a fairy tale” to “I do believe!,” connecting with his daughter in a way many children of overscheduled parents might appreciate.

Disney is a company that definitely embraces special features, and The Great Fairy Rescue doesn’t disappoint. Among the many sneak peeks and previews offered is one for the upcoming Rapunzel film, Tangled. The Tangled bonus feature takes viewers behind the scenes of the animated Disney film as co-director Nathan Greno and actors Mandy Moore (Rapunzel) and Zachary Levi (Flynn Ryder) share their experiences along with clips of the movie, due out in theaters Nov. 24.

There is also a preview of the upcoming Tinker Bell and the Mysterious Winter Woods, which is scheduled for release in early 2011. This will complete the four seasons portrayed in the Tinker Bell movies, and brings viewers one step closer to Tink’s meeting with Peter Pan. But fans of the fairy shouldn’t despair: a fifth movie, Tinker Bell: Race Through the Seasons, is slated for mid-2012.

The deleted scenes section offers three scenes that were cut for time or story reasons. As usual with animated features, the scenes are mainly storyboarded (think: those flip books you used to make as a kid), but one scene (“Cat Attack”) was so beloved by the crew that they completed it in full color. “Lizzy’s Bedtime Story” is portrayed both in the storyboard style and in an intermediate “gray scale” version, where some of the scene is colored in. It’s a fascinating peek at the many levels of production that animated movies go through. Finally, “A Real Live Fairy” offers a reason for Lizzy’s father’s firm insistence in scientific fact: when he was a young boy, he encountered a fairy of his own--with disastrous consequences. Though the scene was cut because producers believed that it took away from some of the magic of Lizzy meeting Tinker Bell for the first time, it’s a very strong scene that helps put a new perspective on Dr. Griffiths’ actions.

As with the other two Tinker Bell movies, The Great Fairy Rescue features a polished soundtrack, including the inspiring "How To Believe" by Bridgit Mendler. The video for her song is included as one of the bonus features, and it’s every bit as colorful and frothy as you’d expect it to be.

A feature called “Design a Fairy House” shows director Bradley Raymond talking about a contest that challenged children to design…well, you know. The short documents winner Zoe Periale’s journey from California to Florida, where she lived every little girl’s dream and built a fairy house that was put on display during the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival.

The final bonus feature, “Fairy Field Guide Builder,” is a game that reviews fairy trivia and offers a simple quiz in order to help viewers build their own field guide of scientific facts. Those who buy the DVD/Blu-ray release can also mail in for a Tinker Bell charm and bracelet with purchase.

Faith, trust and pixie dust. Tinker Bell and the Great Fairy Rescue proves that seeing is believing. Without proof, it’s just a fairy tale.

Tinker Bell and the Great Fairy Rescue
is now available on DVD and Blu-ray.

Modern Family: The Complete First Season DVD Review

Published on SoCal.com

  Your family is not that funny. Seriously. Even Uncle Bob, who pulls quarters from behind your ear and spouts limericks that feature the word “Nantucket.” If someone followed you and your family around for a year with a video camera, you would know this for a fact.

But if someone were to take your family’s quirks, flaws and best stories, added a brilliant comedic cast and some world-class writers? Then you’d have ABC’s Emmy-award winning hit comedy “Modern Family.”

The story of three families, the mockumentary-style sitcom follows patriarch Jay (played with finesse by Ed O’Neill), his beautiful Columbian second wife Gloria (Sofia Vergara) and her young son Manny (the very funny Rico Rodriguez); Jay’s daughter, the uber-controlled Claire (Julie Bowen), her lovably clueless husband Phil (Ty Burrell) and their three children, Haley, Alex and Luke (Sarah Hyland, Ariel Winter and Nolan Gould)
, are the second group; the third is comprised of Jay’s gay son Mitchell (Jesse Tyler Ferguson), his dramatically-inclined partner Cameron (Eric Stonestreet, who also picked up an Emmy for his performance) and their newly-adopted Vietnamese baby, Lily (played by twins Ella and Jaden Hiller).

“Modern Family” turned everyday life into something divine, finding the funny in overscheduled families (Claire and Phil trying to find time for dad to shoot son Luke with a BB gun), sibling rivalry (Mitchell and Claire’s unresolved figure-skating drama) and blended families (Jay’s attempts to incorporate Columbian holiday traditions into their American Christmas).

Though viewers never really know whose camera this family’s life is being documented by, the “film crew” device makes this comedy something a little more special than the typical live-audience sitcom. Kind of a sitcom-reality show hybrid, “Modern Family” works because it is both over the top and completely relatable. Every character is so perfectly cast, even high-octane guest stars (such as Minnie Driver, Elizabeth Banks, Edward Norton, Fred Willard and especially Shelley Long as Jay’s Sedona-dwelling first wife) seem to step up their game.

Now available as a four-disc DVD set (Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment, MSRP: $49.98) or a three-disc Blu-ray set (MSRP: $59.99), “Modern Family: The Complete First Season” features all 24 episodes, plus some enticing extras. Like many DVD/Blu-ray releases, there are deleted, extended and alternate scenes. Divided among the discs, there are some hidden gems in these extras, such as Cameron’s scenes with Barkley the dog butler and Manny getting Claire and Mitchell to come over early Christmas morning for a family portrait. There are also some deleted family interviews that are pretty funny, especially Phil’s list of (to him) great band names.

The real payoff is on the last disc, though, with six featurettes that truly enhance the series. “Real Modern Family Moments” goes behind the curtain to show which episodes featured stories from the lives of the series’ writers, producers and creators. Far from filler material, some of the most unlikely scenarios are the ones inspired by real-life events (such as Mitchell’s pigeon-in-the-house freak out and Phil and Luke’s adventure in the crawlspace under their house). Viewers actually get to take a journey under series’ creator Steven Levitan’s house to see firsthand the inspiration for the episode “Fears.”

Many people are familiar with the roles stars Ed O’Neill and Julie Bowen have played, but in “Before ‘Modern Family,’” viewers learn where we may have seen the other cast members, whether on TV, at an amusement park or in the mall. There are also snippets of cast screen tests, where the chemistry is pitch-perfect.

One of the most unexpected surprises is “Fizbo the Clown,” which shows how Eric Stonestreet’s teenage clown was lifted from reality and written into the show. As a teen, Stonestreet already had much of the charisma and stage presence that earned him the Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series. Don’t be afraid of this clown feature!

Two episodes (“Family Portrait” and “Hawaii”) get their own behind-the-scenes treatment. Each episode is exposed from table reads to final scenes. Viewers see the inspiration for their storylines, hear the actors’ opinions of certain scenes or their characters and witness the chemistry of the cast and the director. In the words of Mitchell, “Sweet Lady Gaga, that’s good!”

Finally, a gag reel rounds out the collection. It’s fine, as gag reels go, but nothing as funny as watching an episode of this series. If you like watching actors flub lines or make faces, then this is for you. Otherwise, skip this and go to one of the other more memorable bonus features instead.

If you weren’t lucky enough to catch this series as it aired, this 24-episode set is the perfect way to immerse yourself in comedy gold. Even if you did see every episode, “Modern Family” is the kind of show that only gets better with repeat viewings. Watch it once for the hilarious storylines; watch it again for the in-jokes and subtle background comedy. Then watch it a third time because, unlike your family, these guys are really funny.

“Modern Family: The Complete First Season” is now available on DVD and Blu-ray.

Don't miss season two of
“Modern Family,” airing Wednesday nights at 9 p.m. on ABC.

The Black Cauldron: 25th Anniversary Special Edition DVD Review

Published on SoCal.com

The Black Cauldron is an animated Disney classic, but not exactly one of those animated Disney classics. Yes, it features a princess (Eilonwy, voiced by Susan Sheridan), but not one you’ll find on any sleepwear or fruit snacks. It has a dark villain (The Horned King, a menacing John Hurt), but this one is truly terrifying, more reminiscent of Sauron from The Lord of the Rings than Cruella De Vil. And while the movie does features that classic Disney device, magical beings, these creatures do little to make the film the sort of lighthearted family-friendly movie the House of the Mouse is revered for. Plus, there isn’t a single bit of song to stick in viewers’ heads days afterward.

The movie takes place in the fictional land of Prydain and is based on Lloyd Alexander’s The Chronicles of Prydain series (which, in turn, was based on Welsh mythology). Viewers begin by meeting a young assistant pig keeper named Taran (Grant Bardsley), whose first words are a lament that the war might end before he has a chance to fight. His master, Dallben (Freddie Jones), tries to temper his bravado with tales of the fearsome Horned King, but Taran seems more fired up than ever, especially when he learns that his pig, Hen Wen, has powers beyond rooting in the dirt. Unfortunately, Taran discovers that she has the ability to deliver hidden knowledge in the form of visions just as The Horned King becomes aware of it.

Taran is entrusted with taking the pig to a safe location, then promptly loses track of her as he daydreams of being a great warrior and defeating The Horned King. As he searches for his lost charge, Taran encounters Gurgi, sort of a cross between a Shih Tzu and a human, who tries to steal the apple Taran is using as bait for Hen Wen. Gurgi tells Taran that he knows where the pig has gone, only to run in fear when they discover Hen Wen being chased (and ultimately grabbed by) two black, dragon-like creatures and taken to a dark castle.

A quick side note: this sequence, just 10 minutes into the movie, is every bit as terrifying as the final scene in Sleeping Beauty, where the prince must fight his way through thorns and a dragon to reach the castle, and it is just the first of many such scary scenes throughout the runtime of this film. There are gnashing rats, brutish henchmen, narrow escapes and the reanimation of corpses, all of which combine to give The Black Cauldron a PG rating, though it actually seems more like PG-13.

Inside the castle, Taran rescues the pig but is captured himself and thrown into the dungeon, where he meets Princess Eilonwy and minstrel Fflewddur Fflam (Nigel Hawthorne). After a daring (and hair-raising) escape, the trio embark on a quest to find (and destroy) the ancient Black Cauldron, which The Horned King seeks in order to create an army of reanimated corpses and rule the world…definitely not the typical Disney plotline!

Along with the animated film, which features a new digital transfer, The Black Cauldron: 25th Anniversary Special Edition DVD (Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, MSRP: $19.99) also includes a new, never-before-seen deleted scene entitled “The Fairfolk,” which is actually just a different version of a scene that made it into the final cut. Watching deleted scenes in animated features, though, always carries an extra bit of fun, as they are mostly line drawings and rough sketches, with even some of the main characters’ looks shifting from cel to cel. It’s a fascinating peek at the storytelling process, but ultimately not as interesting as the scene that made it into the film.

A gallery of behind-the-scenes photos and the original movie trailer are nice, but a more interesting addition might have been a feature on the fact that The Black Cauldron was the first Disney animated feature to use a new system known as computer-generated imagery (better known today as CGI) as well as the APT process, which replaced xerography and hand-coloring of cels in the animation process (and later was used on The Great Mouse Detective, Oliver & Company and The Little Mermaid). Such a significant historical moment should have been recognized.

Two games are also included on the 25th Anniversary Special Edition DVD; the first, “Quest for the Black Cauldron,” is a trivia game in which viewers race The Horned King to reach the titular Cauldron and was carried over from the original 2000 DVD release. The second, “The Witches’ Challenge Game,” dares viewers to solve riddles posed by the Witches of Morva in order to claim a magical sword. Both are easy to play and require only the DVD player and a remote.

Finally, classic Disney fans will get a kick out of the 1952 short “Trick or Treat” featuring Donald Duck and his nephews Huey, Dewey and Louie. However, just like the still frame gallery and “Quest for the Black Cauldron,” those who already own The Black Cauldron on DVD will have this bonus feature, too.

The Black Cauldron
, the 25th animated feature produced by Disney, was notable for more than its dark feel (which, reputedly, was toned down by new studio head Jeffrey Katzenberger before its release). It was also the most expensive movie Disney had produced to date at $25 million. But does The Black Cauldron, which only earned $21 million domestically at the box office, deserve the 25th anniversary treatment? On its own, the movie is just middle-of-the-road in terms of memorability and appeal, although its dark overtones and lack of a peppy soundtrack make it stand out from other frothy fare. But it’s the historical aspect of the film that marks the beginning of a new era in animation and CGI that ultimately earns the recognition this DVD release provides.

The Black Cauldron: 25th Anniversary Special Edition is now available on DVD.

LOST: The Complete Sixth Season DVD Review

Published on SoCal.com

 For six seasons, fans of the television phenomenon that was “Lost” were treated each week to so much more than an hour’s worth of entertainment. The show provided viewers with a story as impossibly tangled as the vines wrapping the crashed Oceanic 815’s cockpit, and as compelling as the need to type 4 8 15 16 23 42 every 108 minutes. Who were these people? What was the island? Where were they going to end up?

In its final season, the series’ creators did their best to answer most of those burning questions. Fans finally learned why the castaways were all drawn to the island, what the smoke monster was and who Richard Alpert, Jacob and The Man in Black really were. There was also a twist—viewers got to see what might have happened if the plane had actually made it to Los Angeles. By most accounts, the end of the series was satisfying, even if there were some plotlines left dangling.

With the arrival of “Lost: The Complete Sixth Season” (Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, DVD: $59.99; Blu-ray: $79.99), longtime fans of the show might just find some of the closure they seek, as well as the last few tears not wrung out by the series’ finale in May.

While re-watching the 15 episodes leading up to the series finale, viewers can enjoy audio commentary on four key episodes (“LA X,” “Dr. Linus,” “Ab Aeterno” and “Across the Sea”) by series creator Damon Lindelof and writer/executive producer Carlton Cuse. These finally offer insight into the creative process behind “Lost” and why certain choices were made in telling the story. Amid the lighthearted banter and easy rapport between the two are the reasoning behind the flash sideways, the timing of the two mythology-based episodes and why viewers never really learned “the rules” of the island. It’s interesting to note that there is no commentary on the finale, however. If ever an episode demanded commentary, that’s the one. It’s a pretty glaring omission.

After the final episode, fans can finally find the answers to some of the series
lesser mysteries (and at least one forgotten character) in the 12-minute epilogue, “The New Man in Charge.” This brand-new footage is shot with actors Michael Emerson, Jorge Garcia and (SPOILER ALERT!) Malcolm David Kelley, a.k.a. the long-lost Walt. While interesting as a stand-alone piece, this minisode seems more like an afterthought than (as some critics claim) a ploy to get fans to purchase the DVD or Blu-ray in order to find the closure they seek. It’s a nice bit of story that illustrates where things might be headed for the folks on the island (and answers a few more insignificant questions), but it doesn’t delve into some of the more popular mysteries (Who built that four-toed statue? Why do pregnant women die on the island? What’s with that temple?). Watch it to be entertained and to feel a little nostalgia for the series, but don’t expect much resolution.

For a more satisfying bonus feature, watch “The End: Crafting a Final Season.” This featurette is a visual scrapbook of the filming of the last season, from the Hawaiian blessing on day one to the final “cut.” In the words of one crew member, it’s like senior year, except that as a senior you’re excited to be finished with school, whereas the mood on “Lost” was much more bittersweet. In this short, viewers get to experience the emotions of “Lost’s” cast and crew as they count down to the finale, as well as commentary from Hollywood insiders (such as Stephen J. Cannell) who are also fans. One of the most poignant scenes occurs when viewers get to witness the impact on Jorge Garcia (Hurley) as he first reads the final scene of the last episode. As he discovers his ultimate role on the island, a single tear trickles down his face. He then shuts the script and pronounces, “it’s good.” It’s drama just as affecting as anything on the show.

Another attempt to clarify concepts from the final season is “See You in Another Life, Brotha,” which delves deeper into the flash sideways concept with cast interviews and insights from Lindelof and Cuse. Viewers learn each character’s take on their alternate-reality egos and what they think of the device.

“A Hero’s Journey” visits the question “What makes a hero?,” as well as explores the heroic actions of many of the survivors of Oceanic 815. In a show such as this, with more than one hero, it is interesting to follow some of their journeys juxtaposed with the writings of American mythologist Joseph Campbell. Why was Jack (Matthew Fox) heroic, even though he spent much of the season running away? Why was Sayid (Naveen Andrews) heroic, even though he was a torturer and murderer? What made Kate (Evangeline Lilly) a hero, even though she was a criminal on the run? The answers are intriguing.

“Lost on Location” takes viewers behind the scenes of some of the season’s most spectacular stunts, intricate sets and filming challenges. We get to see some of the hurdles involved in filming Sun and Jin’s final scene (hint: where are the restrooms when the cast and crew is underwater all day?) and also how the scene with Charlie and Desmond underwater after their car crashes in the bay was captured for the cameras. One of the most interesting vignettes is the construction of the jungle temple. The stone walls, covered with hieroglyphics designed with a wink and a nod by the crew (and shown off by an affable Garcia), were actually Styrofoam, and the dense jungle was only about two-feet-wide before ending in the studio parking lot.

Of course, no DVD or Blu-ray release would be complete without a blooper reel or deleted scenes, and “Lost: The Complete Sixth Season” contains both, although they’re the least compelling pieces of this particular puzzle. For hardcore “Lost” fans, the “Lost University Master’s Program” is easily the most compelling bonus feature, a Blu-ray exclusive that allows viewers the chance to “delve even deeper into the themes and mysteries” of “Lost” thanks to BD-Live. Dharma Initiative geeks, rejoice!

Finally, for those who have been curious about the show but are reluctant to watch the previous five seasons to catch up, there’s something for you as well. “Lost in 8:15—A Crash Course” takes viewers through a rapid-fire (but very concise) capsule of the first five seasons, so you can jump right in at the deep end of the pool, so to speak.

So does the release of “Lost: The Complete Sixth Season” answer every burning question or tie up every storyline with a neat bow? No. Even the simultaneous release of “Lost: The Complete Collection” (DVD: $229.99; Blu-ray: $279.99) doesn’t accomplish that feat, although it does come with more than 30 hours of bonus materials, a special edition collectible “Senet” game, a collectible Ankh, a custom Lost island replica, an exclusive episode guide, a black light penlight and more, all packaged in what appears to be an ancient stone relic. What “Lost: The Complete Sixth Season” does offer fans, though, is an often touching, sometimes maddening, ever-intriguing capsule of one of the most compelling shows to ever air on television.

”Lost: The Complete Sixth Season” and “Lost: The Complete Collection” are now available on DVD and Blu-ray.

A Fairy Tale Life

It’s mid-afternoon, and a group of T-shirt-clad crew members are doing various checks on the set of Peepshow, Planet Hollywood’s fairy tale-themed burlesque show. Tonight, the stage will host glittering backdrops, sultry dancers and some of the best live vocals in a Strip production. For now, however, it stands exposed, bright overhead lights revealing signature props and the show’s giant, light bulb-covered logo, now dark. It’s a reminder that behind every story lies another, and it’s those stories we’re seeking today.

Peepshow’s three leads are taking a break from a photo shoot for our conversation, their casual demeanor in contrast with their full stage makeup and glittery costumes. To the right, male lead Josh Strickland, fresh from a stint on Broadway as Tarzan; in front, the diva-licous Cheaza (Chay-za), daughter of an Ikette and a mighty voice in her own right. And to the left, marquee darling Holly Madison, blonde curls and sweet lace at odds with the former Playmate’s sexpot appeal.

As with all fairy tales, our interview begins with Once Upon A Time…

What’s On: Once Upon A Time, I wanted to be a writer. I imagine Josh and Cheaza always wanting to be performers, but I can’t imagine this is where you thought you’d end up, Holly…

Holly: I wanted to be a famous Playmate…

WO: And you did it!

Holly: Yes I did!

Josh: I got my first microphone at 5, Fisher Price. It was awesome! And I have a photo of me when I was young, looking like little baby Elton John with a piano, so I’ve always kinda had [performing] in my blood.

Cheaza: My mom was a huge influence for me. I kinda grew up on the side of the stage. I saw my mom sing with Chaka Khan, Rick James, Charlie Wilson and the Gap Band, so [performing] was pretty much around me all my life. But sports were always my thing. If I could sneak off and do it, I wanted to do that.

WO: You guys are asked questions in interviews all the time that you probably don’t want to answer.  What is the one question you wish someone would ask?

Holly: I’d like to be asked about current projects more than my love life…

Josh: Everybody just outright asks me everything! I mean, I think I’d just like to be asked about my
family, my friends, maybe what things people may not know about me.

Cheaza: What more is there to you?

Josh: A lot. Get me in the bedroom…

Cheaza: Yeah, no limits is my little motto. Go have fun, try it all.

WO: What was your favorite fairy tale as a child?

Holly: Probably Cinderella. See, I’ve got my glass slippers…

WO: And your life would kind of echo that story.

Holly: True!

Cheaza: I love Tinkerbell. She runs things, has an attitude and she’s really little.

Josh: Mine was Little Mermaid. And that has definitely echoed my life [laughs]. What you don’t know is I’ve really got fins!

WO: OK, everyone. Name one thing on your bucket list.

Josh: There’s a lot of places around the world that I haven’t seen. I’d love to just travel and not care about anything else.

Cheaza: I’d like to have a holiday off with my daughter. I have worked every holiday since I’ve been in Vegas! She’s very understanding about it, but I would just love to have a holiday off. That would be awesome.

Holly: Probably just travel more.

WO: Holly, your image is so cute and sweet as cotton candy, but I think many people would be very surprised to find out you’re also a very intelligent woman.

Josh: She is smart as hell!

WO: I sort of picture you becoming a professor of French history someday. What else do you think people may have underestimated about you?

Holly: I think people just assume that I don’t really work, that I just travel and for me everything is really fun and games. They don’t realize how much initiative it takes [to do what I do].

WO: As we all know, fairy tales usually end with “Happily Ever After.” What does that mean for you?

Josh: It means so many different things. I’m so happy right now with what I’m doing, and my friends, and it’s just one of the best times of my life.

Cheaza: “Happily Ever After” would probably be just looking in the mirror, saying I’ve done my best and I’m happy with that. It doesn’t matter what people say or do, it’s what matters to you. Family. Love.

Holly: Just having a family and me being able to balance [both]. But work paves the way.
And work they must. As the three leads head back to pose in front of the now blazing Peepshow logo on stage, smiles in place, it’s clear to see that their lives are indeed the stuff of fairy tales.

Peepshow | Sun.-Tue. & Thur.-Fri., 9:30 p.m.; Sat., 8 & 10:30 p.m. (dark Wed.) | $65, $75, $100 & 
$125 | Chi Showroom, Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino | 800-745-3000

Published August 24, 2010 in What's On, The Las Vegas Magazine and on whats-on.com.


Moving Forward By Looking Back

Donny And Marie Osmond Build A Brand New Following

Every Tuesday through Saturday night, a crowd lines up at the Flamingo to see their favorite teen idols perform alongside chart-topping rock and country artists, Broadway belters, an opera singer, a radio host and a finalist and reigning champ of television’s ballroom dance phenomenon, “Dancing with the Stars.”

And all of those people are Donny and Marie Osmond.

The siblings’ 90-minute stage show has garnered rave reviews and has far surpassed the expectations of its stars.

“When you launch a show here in Vegas, you just don’t know,” Donny confides. “You try the best you can to have all the right ingredients. I mean, you can’t just shove everything in there plus the kitchen sink and think it’s gonna work. History has proven that that’s not the case.”

In fact, when the Chip Lightman-produced spectacular was launched in late 2008, the performers worked hard to ensure the right mix of entertainment, going so far as getting the opinion of a former Las Vegas Entertainer of the Year.

“Danny Gans helped us to make [the act] pure entertainment but to still keep personality in the show,” Donny says. “And that’s what Marie and I have really tried to do, is give [the audience] our personality.”

Lack of personality is definitely not something the two have ever been accused of over the years. Even so, some audience members tend to pigeonhole the performers.

“I think people remember me as ‘I’m a little bit country, I’m a little bit rock and roll,’” Marie says, quoting lyrics to the pair’s most well known duet. “But they leave seeing that, my goodness, she did rock, she did pop, Broadway—even opera!”

“The show is kind of unexpected to lots of people,” Donny adds. “[The audience has] heard it’s an entertaining show, but when they come in we have to prove it, and we do that every night.”

“There was this guy front row [last night] with his wife, and he just did not want to be at a Donny and Marie show,” he remembers. “[But] by the end of the show, he was on his feet, with a big smile on his face, clapping his hands and having good time!”

In the past year and a half, the show has proved to everyone that it can pull in audiences and belongs on the Strip. Consequently, the duo’s popularity has skyrocketed off the Strip as well.

Marie, a new Las Vegas resident and renowned philanthropist, was honored recently as Woman
of the Year by the Nevada Ballet Theatre at their annual Black and White Ball. NBT Co-Founder Nancy Houssels says, “From her days on The Donny & Marie Show to her work with The Children’s Miracle Network, we are thrilled to celebrate her achievements and dedication to the world of arts and entertainment.”

“It was a great honor to be there—are you kidding?” Marie enthuses. “And to be included with the other women who were honored before (including Debbie Reynolds, Celine Dion and Bette Midler)? I just love the arts, and I think that it’s an area where we do need more public support.”

When asked how she maintained such a warm, approachable personality in a business that tends to breed cynicism and bitterness, Marie knew just who to credit.

“I had great parents,” she laughs. “I think you have to follow your passion and work hard. I do that—whether it’s my charity work for children’s hospitals or designing my dolls—whatever I do, because I think if you have passion, it’s authentic.”

Currently promoting her upcoming “lifestyle line” of products, Marie will also be the keynote speaker at the United Way’s annual Women’s Leadership Luncheon, held at Paris Las Vegas on Feb. 25, continuing to support the community she has grown to love.

“[Las Vegas] is great for my children. I don’t think people realize what a great community it is outside the Strip,” she says. “I love it [here]; it definitely feels like home for me.”

Meanwhile, brother Donny won the hearts of America when he and professional ballroom dance partner Kym Johnson were crowned the winners of “Dancing With The Stars” in November (“...and I rub it in every night,” he laughs).

“Kym is just amazing,” Donny says. “I remember the night before we did [the final routines] we were so tired. She said, ‘Come on. Just one more!’ And I was lying on the floor, thinking, ‘I can’t even get up off the floor, I’m so tired!’ But I’m so glad we did, because we both worked so hard on [the freestyle] dance.”

“I’m very proud of him for winning, but we all know that the girls dance much harder than the boys do!” Marie quips, the sparkle of the siblings’ famed onstage rivalry peeking through.

“I say [during the show] that I really want to acknowledge Marie, because she was the one who did ‘Dancing with the Stars’ first, and set the stage for me. My hat’s off to her,” Donny says, pausing a beat before adding, “but I won!”

Though it may seem like constant competition, Donny is quick to reassure that the rivalry is just for show.

“It’s just wonderful that both of us have successful careers, and we have so much fun with that rivalry onstage, but it stays onstage,” he says. “We don’t look over the fence at each other and say, ‘Well, what’s she doing? I better one-up her,’ but it kind of comes across that way.”

Radio is one area he has all to himself, however. Recently, Donny had a small recording studio built inside his dressing room at the Flamingo to make it easier to record his new weekday show, On Air With Donny, which is broadcast on radio stations across the U.S. and Canada. (Las Vegas listeners, though, will have to catch his show via the Internet, as it doesn’t air in the valley.)

“I’m having the time of my life!” Donny says of his DJ career. “I’d always had [the idea of a radio show] in the back of my mind. There’s always those little mountains you want to climb, and this was one of them.”

As for the format of his show?

“It’s mainly music-driven, with a few fun stories here and there. It’s [an early-afternoon show] designed to help get you through the work day.”

Rest assured, though, that just because the Osmonds are busy with outside projects, it doesn’t mean their stage show is on the way out.

“[The show] looks like it will last a long, long time,” Donny says. “They’re talking years now of [possibly] continuing this gig, and I really have to say thanks to this community for embracing our show. Chip Lightman and the people at the Flamingo have also been unbelievable. Despite the hardships of the economy, they’ve been very good to us.”

“I think one of the things you notice is that when people go through difficult times, like with the recession, is that the things that seem to endure are entertainment and lipstick,” Marie reflects. “I think [people] just want to look [back on] happier times.”

Can we all become as happy as an Osmond just by attending their show? One look at their 15- foot-high smiles on the Strip side of the Flamingo, and it certainly seems possible.

Donny and Marie | Tue.-Sat. (dark Sun.-Mon.), 7:30 p.m. | $90, $104, $120 & $255 VIP | Flamingo Showroom | 702-733-3333

Published February 23, 2010 in What's On, The Las Vegas Guide

*AUTHOR'S NOTE: As this article went to press, a devastating personal tragedy befell Marie Osmond. My deepest sympathy to her and the entire Osmond family.