If Christmas is a time to tell the truth, give Donny Osmond points for being self-aware.
As he prepares for special holiday shows with his younger sister Marie in Detroit and Chicago, he acknowledges that "with Donny and Marie doing a Christmas show, you really run the risk of having to pass out insulin shots at the end, you know?"
Osmond, 53, may be more Scrooge-like than some of his harshest critics, but he clearly knows what's expected from "Donny & Marie -- Christmas in Detroit." The Osmond family, after all, is known for wholesome pop hits and for holiday traditions that date back to the "Andy Williams Christmas" TV specials of the 60s, as well as its own "Osmond Family Christmas" shows. "We've painted ourselves into a tradition," Osmond notes.
And he doesn't think there's anything wrong with that.
"You know, as cheesy as one might think it may be, it's actually kind of cool," says the father of five and grandfather of three -- and winner of "Dancing With the Stars" in 2009 (Marie finished third in 2007). "When you get right down to it, what is Christmas? It's about family and niceties and things like this.
"But," he adds, "you've got to be careful about how you produce a show like this. You've got to be careful you don't put a lot of sugar on top. It's called 48 years of show business and trying to remove yourself from who you are and what you think the audience wants you to be -- although you know some people think they're going to get an 'Osmond Family Christmas' show of the 70s, and you've got to give them a little bit of that."
Still, Osmond says he and his sister -- who have been preparing the Christmas show while also performing their "Donny & Marie" residency at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas -- are planning to try something vastly different, and certainly less festive than what fans might expect.
"We're going to start off with Christmas music and lights and everything," Osmond reveals, "and then all of a sudden you're going to hear this chaos and the orchestra going flat and sharp and something going awry, and then (the audience) will be bombarded with all this band news -- the mercury in the fish and everything. It's a very risky way to start a Christmas show.
"But then Marie and I are going to come on and say, 'That's the world out there. But tonight, we're going to have a little bit of the Christmas spirit' and then we go into 'We Need a Little Christmas' and you bring the tree out the poinsettias and the dancers and everything starts to transform, and there's your Christmas show.
"But at least it knocks you over the head a little. There's some real problems in the world, but for two hours we're going to get away from it. That's what we want to do."
As for repertoire, Osmond says "pick a Christmas song and we're doing it, buddy" -- including a new song called "If Every Day Could Be Christmas" that's available at Osmond's web site. "It sounds like a classic," he says. "It sounds like something you've heard before, but it's a new song. When they played it for me I said, 'I gotta put that in the show!' "
There will be non-holiday material as well, Osmond says, including hits such as "Puppy Love" and "Paper Roses" and a multi-media recreation of the Osmond Brothers' 1971 hit "Yo-Yo" that includes footage from "The Flip Wilson Show" and updated choreography.
This year's Christmas production follows one the Osmonds staged last year on Broadway, though it's "an entirely new show," according to Donny. They hope to take it to other cities in future years, even if Osmond laments that "we're forfeiting a lot of traditions that we have as a family so we can be out there." He does, however, foresee a time when the duo's Las Vegas -- which is contracted through 2012 -- run will end, and Osmond hopes to "focus a little bit on a solo album.
And he's not complaining about their lot, either
"At the end of the day, the rehearsals, the efforts, the blood, sweat and tears -- it's all left backstage," he says. "When push comes to shove, you do a great show and you enjoy it. The curtain open up and you go out and have a great time, and so does the audience.
"What I love is when I look out there and you look at...particularly the guys. They're like, 'My wife dragged me here,' but at the end of the show, they're having a great time. That's the challenge; it's got to be a little bit of everything to where somebody can take away something they liked. That's what we're trying to do."
"Donny & Marie -- Christmas in Detroit" runs Tuesday, Nov. 29, through Dec. 4 with six shows at the Fox Theatre, 2211 Woodward Ave., Detroit. Tickets are $30-$100. Call 313-471-6611 or visit www.olympiaentertainment.com.
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