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Donny and Marie: A Little Bit Christmas And A Little Bit Vegas


November 28th, 2018

Maybe I'm getting older.  Maybe I'm returning to the things that made me smile when I was much younger.  Maybe I've just gotten to the age where I can enjoy something for what it is. 

It's interesting how we reject most of the things our parents enjoyed.  I remember as a ten year-old being forced to watch the "Donny and Marie Show" each Friday night with my father and younger sister while my mom managed a catering company.  My dad would roar with laughter and I would roll my pre-adolescent eyes.  But I had a secret: I must admit, I loved that show.  Of course, I never let on to my father that I really did enjoy their clean-cut variety show antics. Especially in late 1977, when they promised an appearance  from Han Solo, Luke Skywalker, Chewie, and the droids.  I sat in anticipation from its 8 o'clock debut and let out a plaintive sigh when they broke for commercial breaks every fifteen minutes.  It wasn't until almost the 9 o'clock hour until they made an all-too-brief appearance on the show, smiling and waving at me and my action figures, parked on the floor right in front of the whopping 23" screen, and then quickly walking off the set.  I felt ripped off and held Donny and Marie responsible for such a short-shrift in viewing time. After all, they had to make time for MORE commercials.  

Holding a grudge for forty-plus years is a bad thing and, thankfully, I was able to finally lay it to rest this evening as Donny and Marie Osmond played a fantastic show at Northfield's Hard Rock Rocksino.  Admittedly, I was a little reticent to cover this show; would it be another all-anticipation-and-no-payoff like my 1977 debacle turned out to be?

After all, it was a Christmas show. In the spirit of the holidays I've decided this year to lay an embargo on any holiday music until at least December 5th, in order to avoid the perennial burnout that I get every year by the second week of December after the 337th listen to "Jingle Bells" or "Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer."  There's still one song, no matter when I hear it, that turns me homicidal.  Thank god they didn't offer that Chipmunks song because there may have been some Mormon blood spilled tonight if one verse of that abomination would have vomited past their pearly whites.

So, word of warning: If you want to see me turn from a sweet, innocent mogwai into a raging gremlin, light up a few bars of that tune and you'll see a fireworks display to rival that of the Fourth of July on the National Mall.

I was able to lay off the self-imposed Christmas tune exile for about two hours tonight and, boy, am I glad I did.

First of all, lay aside any judgement about a Donny and Marie concert.  Cast away all your notions about their squeaky-clean image. After all, this isn't Pat Boone we're talking about here.  And, speaking of that, what the hell was he thinking when he donned all that S&M leather like fifteen years ago and tried to pass it off as some hip, new geriatric trend?  Now, that was creepy.

Primarily a Christmas show, the duo, along with a crew of backup dancers, offered a light-hearted and entertaining Vegas style show.  Covering their lengthy careers on television and Donny's first appearance with his brothers as an extremely young child, the show was peppered with video clips that gave us a highlight reel.  Marie first came into our lives in her mid-teens, becoming an internationally-known celebrity before she was old enough to drive.  Video clips from her early years on TV were intercut with her growing older, and her post-TV years.

The majority of the songs were standards; only a handful of them were tunes that wouldn't be recognized in a regular muzak rotation over the 70-volt speaker system in your average Denny's.  An exception would be "Motown Christmas," an early set offering, and "The Prayer," a cover of a song made popular by Josh Groban and, separately, Celine Dion and Andrea Bocelli.

The highlight of the evening, especially for Terry from Brecksville, was when Marie pulled him onstage for an impromptu duet.  The terrified Terry was asked to sing "Blue Christmas" with her and he took to the task swimmingly, if a little off key.  Standing virtually cheek-to-cheek with the songstress,  the Brecksville resident made his way (with Marie's help, of course) through the perennial favorite. When the duet concluded, with Terry down in a genuflecting Elvis style pose, offering the last few bars of "Blue Christmas," the crowd went nuts. Being the awesome sport that he was, the excited Terry from Brecksville received a standing ovation from the crowd and, perhaps, the wrath of a jealous wife awaiting his return in section three.

Donny sang the obligatory "Puppy Love," which put him on the map (and most teen girls' bedroom walls) in the early 1970s,  while Marie offered a beautiful rendition of "How Great Thou Art."  And, of course, they had to give us "She's A Little Bit Country and He's A Little Bit Rock 'n' Roll," interspersed with a half dozen Christmas tunes as a mashup medley.

How was the show?  I guess it all depends on how much you enjoy nostalgia and a dose of clean-cut entertainment without a hint of post-modern irony or cynicism.

As both Donny and Marie came down from the stage and wandered throughout the audience while singing directly and intimately to the crowd, smiles radiated everywhere throughout that auditorium. Perhaps it was the love for a simpler time.  Maybe it was Sugarplums dancing in people's heads.  Or maybe people are just in need of a little old-fashioned, Norman Rockwell in their lives.

No matter what it was, take it for what it is: When a pair of entertainers have the ability to bring that type of energy to a crowd, it's a powerful force.  Maybe my hyperbole-filled prose makes it sound corny, but the million-watters that left that venue were as real as that gigantic post holiday credit card statement you'll receive sometime in mid-January.

Photos and Review by Brian M. Lumley

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