Osmond-mania returns as brother Jay launches musical memoir of Seventies’ hit makers. Grand Opera House awaits in 2022

Danny Nattrass, left, Alex Lodge, Ryan Anderson, Jamie Chatterton and Joseph Peacock as The Osmonds. Picture: Oliver Rosser

THE Osmonds: A New Musical, the story of the Seventies’ hit-making brothers from Utah, USA, will play the Grand Opera House, York, on from August 2 to 6 on its 2022 premiere tour.

Further Yorkshire dates will follow at Hull New Theatre from October 18 to 22 and Bradford Alhambra from November 22 to 26 next year for a show whose world premiere will run at Curve, Leicester, from February 3 to 6.

The Osmonds: A New Musical is driven by a story by Jay Osmond, the drumming  brother who sang lead vocals on Crazy Horses, recounting how they were pushed into the spotlight as children and went on to create multiple smash hits.

From their star residency on The Andy Williams Show from 1962 to 1969, through Osmond-mania pop stardom from 1971 to 1975, to the arrival of The Donny & Marie Show, a variety TV show from 1976 to 1979, The Osmonds lived a remarkable life recording chart-topping albums, selling out arena concerts and making record-breaking TV shows. Until one bad decision cost them everything. 

“I’ve wanted to tell my story for such a long time and the opportunity to create this beautiful musical, a sort of ‘living autobiography’, seemed the perfect way to do so,” says Jay, who first performed with Alan, Wayne and Merrill, later joined by Donny (with Little Jimmy and sister Marie playing their part in the success too).

“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.”

Jay, 66, continues: “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. 

“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. I just want people to be enjoying themselves. I guess that is in the Osmonds’ DNA.” 

The Osmonds: A New Musical will feature such Seventies’ anthems as One Bad Apple, Down By The Lazy River, Crazy Horses, Let Me In, Love Me For A Reason, (We’re) Having A Party, Donny’s Puppy Love, Little Jimmy’s Long Haired Lover From Liverpool, Marie’s Paper Roses and more besides. 

The Osmonds have sold more than 100 million records worldwide and won 59 gold and platinum awards, and now Jay pulls back the curtain to reveal the real family behind all these hits: parents George and Olive Osmond and their nine children, Virl, Tom, Alan, Wayne, Merrill, Jay, Donny, Marie and Jimmy.

From Jay’s story, The Osmonds: A New Musical has a book by Julian Bigg and Shaun Kerrison and will be directed by Kerrison, with choreography and musical staging by Bill Deamer. The full casting is yet to be announced.

The seeds of the musical were sown by Jay’s 2013 autobiography, Stages. “I wrote this book about my life. It turned into more of a travelogue,” he says. “I always wanted to do a backstage version that included not only the good times, but the bad and sad times too.”

Whereupon a producer friend had an idea: “He said ‘why don’t you write a living memoir and put it on stage?’ And I thought, ‘Exactly’! I’ve always loved the stage; for me it was one last frontier to conquer. 

“I wrote it from the heart. It was hard. I had to play my drums a lot to get my emotions out, but it all boiled down to this: why did we do what we did? It was because we wanted to help people; to use those talents to do some good in the world. I wanted to put that purpose into the show. I think you can do almost anything in life if you have a purpose.”

More than 30 songs are combined with Jay’s story in the musical. “It was a challenge,” he admits. “It’s about the four brothers who were at the start. I was one of them. The story starts at the 50th anniversary and then goes way back. Each of us has a different perspective, so this is very much my perspective; hard times, fun times, why we did what we did and how we did it as a family.”

Should you be wondering why the world premiere will be in the UK, rather than the USA, Jay reasons: “This is where our family was so welcomed. Osmond-mania kind of happened everywhere, but there was something about the UK; our family was so accepted and so loved here.

“We’ve been to almost every place on the tour list at some point and they are places that hold so many memories. We’ll go to Canada and America too, sure, but it feels right to begin here.”

Jay believes the Osmonds’ musical could not be better timed after the impact of the pandemic. “I want it to be a celebration of helping people out,” he says. “I want people to walk out of the theatre feeling lifted and excited about life; to feel joy. That’s my goal.

“I’m humbled that we’ve been blessed with people who have loved our music and that we might have played a small part in their lives when they have faced challenges. I want them to know how much they have helped me and my family. They are part of The Osmonds. It will feel like a high school reunion when they come to the show.”

York tickets are on sale on 0844 871 7615 or at atgtickets.com/york; Hull, 01482 300306 or hulltheatres.co.uk; Bradford, 01274 432000 or bradfordtheatres.co.uk.

Jay Osmond

Jay Osmond’s back story

JAY was the instigator of many of the projects that kept the Osmond family together and moving forward during all the years of success. He is the youngest of the original Osmond Brothers group, with a career in entertainment that started at the age of two and a half. 

Jay was eight years old when he learned to play the drums and later he collaborated with the brothers on many of the hit records, singing lead vocals on 1972’s Crazy Horses, their best-selling international single. 

He choreographed the shows for the Osmond Brothers, as well as for Donny & Marie, using a style influenced by his karate skills learned from his personal instructor, action-movie actor Chuck Norris. 

Jay worked behind the scenes as a producer, with production credits for the 1970s’ television programmes The Donny & Marie Show and The Osmond Family Hour, the 1980s’ variety show Marie, the film depiction of the life of the Osmond family, Side By Side, and the family’s 50th Anniversary PBS special and DVD projects. 

He released a solo album, It’s About Time Again, in 2009, and his autobiography, Stages, in 2013.

Did you know?

JAY and brothers Alan, Wayne and Merrill started a barbershop quartet to fund hearing aids for their two older brothers, Virl and Tom. Discovered by Walt Disney in 1961, he mentored them, leading to their invitation to appear on The Andy Williams Show. The rest is pop history.

Did you know too?

JIMMY Osmond played slick lawyer Bill Flynn in Cabaret at the Grand Opera House, York, in April 2009.