Las Vegas Sun

July 28, 2014

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Review:

Osmonds still living a dream

Brother act is as lovable as ever, at least judging from the shrieks in the showroom

Image

Leila Navidi

The Osmond Brothers, from left, Jay, Merrill and Wayne, perform at the Suncoast. The brothers do their best work these days in chorus rather than in solo performances. The Osmonds make it a point to interact with their fans, and to have their fans interact with one another.

Donny and Marie

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On certain nights in Las Vegas, when the stars are aligned and the parking lots are full, these hills are alive with the sound of Osmonds.

Last Friday was one of those enchanted evenings: While Donny & Marie were doing their hit act at the Flamingo, three of their brothers, Merrill, Wayne and Jay, began a three-night stand at the Suncoast, turning the valley into a wondrous land called Osmondias.

From the randy squeals and hoots filling the showroom, you might have guessed the mostly female crowd was waiting hungrily for a male strip show.

But when the Osmond Brothers hit the stage with grins, winks, waves and thumbs-up, they were greeted with a similar, but more PG-13-rated, sort of lust.

“How many of you have seen Donny & Marie?” Merrill asked the crowd — most apparently had. “Well, we’re gonna outdo ’em tonight!”

But this crowd wasn’t concerned with the more famous younger siblings — they clearly had eyes only for the original Old Boy band, the Big O’s.

Even before Donny arrived on the scene and on the screen, the OsBros were teenage pinups, and 30 years later they’re no less cuddly. Rounder, grayer and fuzzier, they look like Osmond Muppets. The ladies in the house — several of whom had tickets for all three nights — plainly still considered them love objects. Minds were visibly lost when the boys sang “Love Me for a Reason” and “I Can’t Live a Dream.”

The trio is led by bearded Merrill, 55, who plays the straight man in the act, and with his white hair and beard resembles Kenny Rogers. In the ’60s and ’70s heyday, Jay, 53, was a heartthrob second only to Donny, and he apparently still is in the hearts of a die-hard few. Multi-instrumentalist Wayne, 57, plays the family goofball, doing a string of “I’m so old” jokes with an endearing Don Knotts delivery.

Pressing the flesh with fans is apparently an Osmond thing. While Donny & Marie dispense hearty fist-bumps and glossy lipstick kisses, respectively, their elder brothers walk down (carefully) and wander among the showroom tables to accept hugs and perform little do-si-dos with fans, many of whom the Osmonds seemed to recognize.

Once back up on stage, Merrill scanned the room to make sure his brothers hadn’t been dragged away by cougars.

Another Osmond thing is to turn the house lights up and make every audience member shake hands and say, “How are ya, buddy?”

Over 50 years their act has been honed to crowd-pleasing perfection. It’s a wholesome, homemade American pie filled with corn and cheese, vaudeville banter, sibling joshing, still-tight harmonies and low-impact versions of their famous dance moves.

If there’s a definable characteristic of “the Osmond sound,” it’s the audible effect of singing while smiling. The brotherly voices are still potent but they kept their solos brief — they sounded notably stronger together. Harmonies were supplemented by the surprisingly rockish band, which included a pair of Nelson-esque longhair brothers on guitar and bass.

Every song in the show was an audience singalong, from bubblegum hits like “One Bad Apple” and “Yo-Yo” to a clever and moving medley of brother acts through the years, from the Mills, Everly and Gatlin Brothers to the Doobie and Blues Brothers.

The Osmond Brothers — with 45-year-old little brother Jimmy, who is currently touring England in the musical “Chicago” — return to the Orleans Aug. 28-30.

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