Back when The Osmonds were in their ascendancy, I was in thrall to the considerably more credible likes of Led Zeppelin, The Byrds and, ahem, Quicksilver Messenger Service (come on, two out of three ain’t bad and in retrospect QMS actually had their moments).
Thus, the perma-grinning, God-fearing, and horribly wholesome Osmonds were pretty much (and with the sort of irony teenage boys favour) the spawn of the devil. What’s worse, the girls liked them more than my faves.
The intervening years, with the ongoing revelations of family in-fighting, coercive control and financial ineptitude, have, with the sort of irony older blokes favour, softened my attitude to the lads considerably – even though Long Haired Lover From Liverpool will forever remain an abomination.
Thus, I entered Manchester’s Palace Theatre with, if not exactly a spring in my step then at least hope in my heart that The Osmonds – A New Musical with, as heavily trailed, its ‘story by Jay Osmond’, a grown man with a point to make if not an axe to grind, could well prove to be a diverting enough spectacle. And so it proved to be.
Predictably enough, the devoted fans seemed to love it (and were even more excited when Jay himself appeared in a box seat, on the first night, positively lapping up the attention).
They might, however, have been a bit perplexed if they’d come along expecting just another sing-along jukebox musical. It might not have the Mob backdrop of Jersey Boys, but there’s still quite a bit of darkness in this story (even putting aside the inevitable inclusion of that song) that’s not really hinted at by the technicolour, cartoon-like marketing.
But good for them I say, on behalf of the more agnostic audience members. Furthermore, whether for music rights or story advancement purposes, the actual choice of ‘music as performed by the Osmond Family’ can seem a little perverse.
Sure there are crowd-pleasers like the Motown-lite One Bad Apple and the still inexplicable Crazy Horses (with the ensemble joined by Jay for the opening night), but was anyone really expecting the amount of stage time devoted to the hoary old likes of The Auctioneer, You Are My Sunshine and I’ll Be Home For Christmas, let alone a full version of Music To Watch Girls By from the show’s pretend Andy Williams?
It’s all musically solid enough, but the vocal performances from the various Osmonds were occasionally wonky enough for me to question first night nerves.
The most consistently good singing came from Georgia Lennon as Marie Osmond but, reflecting the story itself, she seemed somewhat underused, while a rather sweet sub-story about their ‘biggest fan’ Wendy was one of the bits of the show that eventually paid off.
Not at all bad then and with a decent mainstream message about ‘family sticking together, whatever’, this probably isn’t going to convert any new fans, but it doesn’t really intend to and is likely to grow into its undoubted potential.
The Osmonds – A New Musical is at the Palace Theatre, Manchester until August 13, 2022. For more information, click here.
Main image by Pamela Raith