JAY Osmond has wanted to tell the Utah musical family’s story for “such a long time”.
Hold your crazy horses! Here comes The Osmonds: A New Musical, whose 2022 tour visits the Grand Opera House, York, from August 2 to 6.
“The opportunity to create this beautiful musical, a sort of ‘living autobiography’, seemed the perfect way to do so,” says 67-year-old Jay, the Crazy Horses lead vocalist now retired from the family drum stool but very much the driving force behind a world-premiere British and Irish tour that runs from February to early December.
“I spent my whole life performing live – on stage, on TV specials, in arenas – so the buzz of live theatre felt like the perfect place for me. There were some difficult times in my life, and some big hurdles to overcome, and this musical will tell people things that will surprise them.
“But despite that trouble, when you look back and think of the fans, the music, the once-in-a-lifetime things we did, it’s joyful. I guess I want to do this now to try to spread a little bit of that joy.”
First, Jay penned his 2010 autobiography, Stages, charting a career that began at the age of two and a half. Now, he has provided the story for the Osmonds’ musical, a show with a book by Julian Bigg and director Shaun Kerrison and choreography and musical staging by Bill Deamer.
“I’ll know I’ve done a good job telling this story if I stand at the back of the theatre and see people waving their arms in the air, singing along and dancing in the aisles,” says Jay. “I just want people to be enjoying themselves. I guess that is in the Osmonds’ DNA.”
The Osmonds: A New Musical recounts the story of the brothers from Ogden, Utah, who began as The Osmond Brothers barbershop quartet, featuring Alan, Wayne, Merrill and Jay, and were later joined by sibling Donny and later still by “Little” Jimmy and sister Marie.
From their star residency on The Andy Williams Show from 1962 to 1969, when pushed into the limelight as children, to pop stars and Osmondmania from 1971 to 1975, to the arrival of The Donny & Marie Show, choreographed by Jay, from 1976 to 1979, The Osmonds lived a remarkable life.
They recorded chart-topping albums, sold out arenas and made record-breaking TV shows en route to 59 gold and platinum albums and 100 million record sales, but then one bad decision cost them everything, as the musical will highlight.
Jay’s musical pulls back the curtain to “reveal the real family behind all those Seventies’ hits”, 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 et al.
Parents George and Olive Osmond and all nine children, including older siblings Virl and Tom, feature in the family story. “The musical is written not only for those of our era, the Seventies, but for those who are curious about us, who know the music, but want to know about our story,” says Jay.
“The show gives a wider specification of who the Osmonds were and are; why the Osmonds’ music is so much part of our lives; and it taps into different aspects of our songs, showing off a wider range of our music than just the hits. That was my goal: to appeal to a wider audience.”
Could an Osmonds’ musical have arrived sooner? “There were times when other members of the group thought about it, but we were doing other things,” says Jay.
“But when I wrote Stages, I was contacted by the producer, who said, ‘I always thought your family should do a musical. As the youngest one in the original group, you can say how you saw it; how the family dynamic worked; what some of the challenges were and how you overcame them’.”
Jay is delighted with how The Osmonds: A New Musical has taken shape. “I’m so thrilled with how the actors are performing. There are times to laugh; times to cry,” he says.
“We take the story back to Walt Disney and Andy Williams and Jerry Lewis, and we go back and forth between when we were kids and when we’re adults, starting in 1962 and ending in 2008.
“What we show is our uniqueness. If you make comparisons with the Rolling Stones, The Beatles, The Jackson Five – where there was a rivalry – we were unique as a family band who played our instruments but were also clean cut. That made us stand out.
“I think what people will take away from this show is an appreciation of some of the challenges we faced, some of the obstacles we faced, and how we bonded together as a family through that. That was the highest point of our career: when we were at our lowest, we stuck together.”
Looking back to the brothers’ early days on The Andy Williams Show, Jay says: “The pressure was immense. Growing up in the public eye, the pressure was always on us to get it right. There was a feeling that we had to be perfect, and we had to work through that and smile through that. I address that heavily in the musical, showing that other side to the Osmonds that people didn’t know.”
Likewise, you may not know that Jay and his wife, Karen, “almost moved to York”. “We considered York and Chester logistically, but Chester was nearer to what we were seeking,” he says.
“We want to go to the Jorvik Viking Museum because my wife has Viking connections.”
The Osmonds: A New Musical, runs at Grand Opera House, York, from August 2 to 6; box office: 0844 871 7615 or atgtickets.com/York. Also: Hull New Theatre, October 18 to 22, 01482 300306 or hulltheatres.co.uk.
Did you know?
JAY Osmond’s choreographic style for the Osmonds and Donny and Marie’s TV shows was influenced by his karate skills learned from personal instructor Chuck Norris.