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Donny Osmond already has a hit, and extension, at Harrah’s

Updated September 13, 2021 - 11:44 am

Donny Osmond’s production team has spent a few million dollars in his new production at Harrah’s Showroom. The investment is evident, with top-notch dancers and musicians, brilliant video panels, lasers, artificial smoke and the requisite confetti storm at the end.

But of course, Osmond delivers qualities you can’t buy — inherent talent, work ethic, showmanship, instincts … showbiz DNA.

“Donny” is thus already a hit at Harrah’s. The show has a permanency. It feels built to last, like the Osmonds’ brand itself. Those characteristics made the star’s announcement from the stage Thursday night that the show would run through 2022 almost an afterthought (the new dates begin Jan. 25-29, running through Nov. 19, 2022).

Osmond and Caesars Entertainment used the opening night to remind folks that Osmond, solo, is the lord of the manor at Harrah’s. Remarkably, he’s not performed on his own on the Strip, ever.

‘Start Again’

It helps that Osmond has a new album, “Start Again,” two years in the making, coinciding with this Vegas residency. That means he can perform his first hit, the 1972 “Puppy Love,” in the first 10 minutes and move confidently toward the EDM-influenced “Move,” from the new release.

Osmond, seemingly tireless at age 63, also performs extensive numbers with his backing dancers, including a brief tap dance routine. (Yep, Donny Osmond is a good tap-dancer. Who knew?)

The star has an experienced team behind the scenes, with Greg Young of Mojave Ghost producing (Young has produced Tony and Drama Desk Award-winning Broadway shows, among 2,500 concerts and 40 Broadway productions). Raj Kapoor (who has teamed with Shania Twain, Maria Carey and Backstreet Boys’ live shows) directs. The dance tandem Nappytabs (Napoleon & Tabitha Dumo) has choreographed the show.

Osmond’s abilities as a song-and-dance man can’t be underestimated. He and the backing dancers totally commit. And Osmond settles down to play some piano, too, so he has that instrument in his arsenal.

“This type of show doesn’t highlight just the new album, or one specific part of my career,” Osmond said in a phone chat Friday morning. “That’s why the whole concept of when I started designing this thing was, let’s make it all inclusive. Let’s do everything I’ve done. Which was pretty ambitious, in a 90-minute show.”

So, we see Osmond’s classic videos as a 5-year-old stealing scenes from Andy Williams. Unexpected and unearthed moments abound, such as a brush of Osmond singing “Ambitious” with Jeff Beck as Osmond fought through a tough career patch in the mid-’80s.

Osmond also revives his “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” period (fans still love video of Donny in the shirtless costume). Of course, vintage videos of the Osmonds’ 1970s heyday are brought back, with shrieking fans grabbing at the youthful Donny in his Elvis-styled jumpsuit.

The whole package would seem fit for a museum exhibit, if not that the star is still performing live, after nearly 60 years.

A show rap

Showing off his dexterity, Osmond performs what is growing to an iconic moment on the Strip, a 10-minute rap covering his entire career. Osmond has impressively put this stretch to memory, as one verbal misstep throws off the entire routine. He stars in a measured beat, and accelerates to his current position as a solo headliner.

“So in 1962, I made my big debut, and showed the whole world what little Donny could do,” he raps. Of the “Donny & Marie” show, he recites, “Four nonstop years we had, boy what a blast with all those sketches, songs and dances it sure went fast. And while those memories were short to last and last, you can rest assured those costumes can stay in the past.”

Osmond’s network TV triumphs, on “Dancing With The Stars” and “The Masked Singer” are also given a good ride (so is his run as host of the “Pyramid” game show and a dizzying spin as a “Love Boat” guest star). Osmond won “DWTS” a dozen years ago, but the victory lives in perpetuity with the mirrored disco ball trophy displayed near the theater entrance. So is the Peacock outfit.

Osmond remains giddy over his appearances on both of those shows, but did stop short of leading the crowd in a chant of “Peacock! Peacock” as he did during the “Donny & Marie” show at Flamingo. I recall “Masked Singer” creative director Michael Schwandt once telling me Osmond was rare in celeb performers on the show, who arrived with new ideas and put thought into every facet of his appearances.

Osmond is capable enough, and so well prepared, to offer a call-out segment to the audience to select any song from any Osmond album. He is likely to forget lyrics (as he did with “A Million to One,” a lost cut from 1973), and the band will be challenged to find the music in their iPads. But it works, as the fans play stump-the-star with the dozens of album covers displayed on the video panel.

The Marie effect

Invariably, Marie Osmond remains something of a mythic presence in her brother’s Harrah’s show. “Donny & Marie” was a success at Flamingo for 11 years, a brand that seemed to have a life of its own (the smiling siblings loomed over the Strip on Flamingo building wraps for more than a decade). But despite that effective pairing, the brother and sister have their own lives and careers.

As his way to close the era, Donny sings a moving tribute to Marie and the “Donny & Marie” TV show, to the Beatles’ “In My Life.”

Donny’s wife, Debbie, actually suggested using that number. The videos of the slapstick-tinged variety show are clearly from a bygone era. There seemed no shortage of sequins in the 1970s. And in one moment, Marie dumps an entire pitcher of milk over Donny’s head, leading to unbridled guffaws.

And we will see Marie drop in on the Harrah’s show at some point, and join Donny again onstage.

“Do you think is there is any other option?” Osmond said, laughing. “In fact, I know exactly what I’m going to say at the beginning of the show. Everybody will know she’s in the room. Right at the top of the show, after she receives applause-applause-applause, I’m going to say something like, ‘We all know who’s in the audience …’ Marie and I have made a promise that we won’t surprise each other. So it’ll be, ‘I am announcing to you right now, you will be on this stage tonight.’”

But the “Donny” experience will be just that, the Donny Osmond show. It’s a little bit nostalgia, a little bit new music — with one headliner at the helm.

“I didn’t try to do another Donny and Marie show,” Osmond said. “This is something completely different. I just want to supplement what I had in the past. I don’t want to recreate it.”

John Katsilometes’ column runs daily in the A section. His “PodKats!” podcast can be found at reviewjournal.com/podcasts. Contact him at jkatsilometes@reviewjournal.com. Follow @johnnykats on Twitter, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.

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