NEW YORK, N.Y. - Faced with the pressure of opening their Broadway Christmas show opposite the Spider-Man megamusical, Donny and Marie Osmond are upping their game.
"Marie and I are flying over the audience," says Donny Osmond in his spare dressing room at the Marquis Theatre.
The siblings will be using their trusty variety show from the Las Vegas Strip as a skeleton for this month's 22-show "Donny & Marie — A Broadway Christmas," plus a generous portion of seasonal songs. There will be no aerial stunts.
"We have to do what we're known for and what we're good at. We've been doing it for 300 years," Osmond says, laughing.
Maybe not exactly 300, but certainly a lot. The duo became famous in 1976 with their hit TV variety show and have managed to stay current for each new generation, whether by TV, radio, theatre or with concerts. Both were recently on "Dancing With the Stars" — Donny, who just turned 53, finished on top last year; his 51-year-old sister took third in 2007. Expect some good-natured ribbing about that on stage.
Their Broadway show — the first time they will be on a Great White Way stage together — will have the same 10 dancers, nine musicians and props from their show at the Flamingo Showroom in Las Vegas, where they've been in residence for the past 2 1/2 years. In a sign of the Osmonds' endurance, Boyz II Men will take over their missing slots at the Flamingo while they're here.
"Here's our philosophy to entertain," says Donny, taking another veiled swipe at the comic-book musical. "You can throw as much money as you want at a show. Unless you have heart and soul in it, you don't have a show. So, yeah, we've raised the bar. We've got all kinds of bells and whistles and stuff like that. But there are moments where it just shuts down and we sit on stools and sing songs."
They'll play the oldies — would you expect a Donny and Marie show without "Puppy Love" or "Paper Roses"? — and at least one new one, "Christmas in New York." Marie will pull an audience member on stage to help her sing "Blue Christmas."
"We're going to get the critics who say, 'OK, everyone should get an insulin shot at the end of the show.' I might even say it on stage," he says, laughing. "But there's enough rock 'n' roll in it, there's enough heart and soul, to where hopefully people walk away and say, 'You know what? That was entertaining.' That's the bottom line."
Both have been on Broadway before. Marie Osmond made her debut in 1997 as Anna in "The King and I" and went on a national and international tour as Maria in "The Sound of Music."
Donny Osmond starred in Andrew Lloyd Webber's "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" for a six-year run of 2,000 performances in Toronto. In 2007, he starred on Broadway as Gaston in "Beauty and the Beast."
Asked what Donny is like offstage, Marie takes the bait. "Donny and I grew up in the public eye, so who we are on stage is pretty much who we are in real life," she says. "Donny really is nice and very, very grounded. However, I never noticed that he's funny. You think so?"
The pair are consummate professionals, even if they veer dangerously into the land of corny. Donny Osmond says they learned from the best of the old school — Frank Sinatra, Diana Ross and, he especially notes, the influence of Sammy Davis Jr.
"He stopped a show once and he said, 'You paid good money to hear me sing and not crack a note. We're starting over.' He started the whole show over! That's entertainment," he says.
Osmond hopes their Christmas show might be successful enough to be brought back next Christmas — and the one after that. "If the audience takes to it and if the critics like it and if there's good buzz about it, I would love for this to be an annual event. Wouldn't that be cool?"