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.

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