Donny Osmond proclaims, “What we need is less discouragement and a lot more Christmas.”
Never one to disappoint her brother and stage partner of 49 years, sister Marie immediately joins in the duet “We Need a Little Christmas,” from the Broadway musical “Mame.”
The audience roars its approval at the opening number.
And crowds of thirtysomething-and-older fans of these saccharine siblings will continue to do so through the full run of “Donny and Marie: Christmas in Chicago,” now through Christmas Eve at the Oriental Theatre.
Why? Because these performers deliver exactly what their audiences want—part holiday special, part pop concert and part commercial for themselves—all wrapped up with a big, red, schmaltzy bow on top.
With both siblings age 53 on opening night (Donny turns 54 December 9), know this about the most commercially successful members of the singing Osmond family: She’s still gorgeous, he’s still handsome, they both still sing exceedingly well and all their teeth are still annoyingly Pepsodent white.
What makes this show work is the versatility of the pair’s voices and their “Dancing with the Stars” stamina. There’s hardly a Christmas song unsung, at least in part. But it’s not all Christmas, either. Ambitious compilations are devoted to Broadway show tunes and Motown hits. Numerous songs from records and CDs old and new are also featured.
Plaudits go to Marie’s tight harmonies with backup singers on “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy”; her duet with Donny on their country single, “The Good Life”; and Donny’s choreography on the Osmond Brothers’ “Like a Yo Yo.”
Indeed, he is every bit the older brother on stage, taking control of subtle directorial responsibilities while making self-deprecating jokes about aging and effortlessly mingling with the crowd. He seems authentically joyful to be back in Chicago where audiences fawned over him as Joseph in “Dreamcoat” many years ago. Indeed, Donny is the perfect host.
Marie takes longer to warm up to the crowd and seems too often trapped by the show’s scripted shtick. But she loosens up after “Bugle Boy” and is genuinely touched while introducing and performing, “I Can Do This,” written for her son Michael, who committed suicide in 2010. Her fans would appreciate more of this genuineness from her throughout the show.
Even the most fervent Donny and Marie enthusiasts will be hard-pressed to explain a Beach Boys tune in the middle of the Motown Medley or any type of rationale for including the Stray Cats’ “Rock This Town,” between two beautiful Christmas ballads toward the show’s end. And the way-too-long bit with a certain tone deaf Chicago “faux-lebrity” should be written out of the show before anyone reading this sees it.
The bottom line is that all blemishes are quickly forgiven by folks coming to see Donny and Marie, because the audience likes them; they really, really like them. And when these lovely siblings croon their trademark final song—“May tomorrow be a perfect day … ” —it’s hard not to think that it just might be.
“Donny and Marie: Christmas in Chicago” runs through December 24 at the Oriental Theatre, 24 W. Randolph Street, Chicago. Call 1-800-775-2000 for tickets. More information is available at broadwayinchicago.com.