I admit it: I only got tickets to see the Donny and Marie Christmas spectacular at the Pantages Theatre in Los Angeles, Calif., because my high school best friend Emily Johnson has had a crush on Donny since, well, high school. So for 35 years I've heard her say how much she loves Donny, and now, I could take her to the show and introduce her. I also admit I thought, prior to going in, that I was going to have a less-than-stellar evening and that this squeaky clean fun wasn't going to be my cup of tea.
I was wrong.
The Donny and Marie Christmas show (Dec. 4 through Dec. 23) at the Pantages is probably the most wholesome, entertaining family fun available this holiday season in Los Angeles. These two love to entertain, and over the last 50, yes, 50 years in show business (Donny started at age five) they've become more than good at it.
Many think success in the entertainment industry is fame and fortune; those in it know that success means working, entertaining, staying busy and getting paid for it. Real success, real stardom means working and these two have stayed busy in almost all mediums for five decades.
The show is like being in the studio audience for one of the old Donny and Marie TV Christmas specials; Production numbers designed around Christmas music, singers, dancers, Christmas trees, even fake snow. It's good, clean fun destined to make even the biggest Scrooge feel the warmth of the Holidays.
But filling two hours with all Christmas music would be a task even for this dynamic duo, so each does mini-sets of their own, complete with tributes to Broadway and some of their many hits.
It's in these that the star of the show becomes Marie. I, and many audience members, had no idea that Marie can SANG, and yes, I mean, SANG. The girl sang her face off (no jokes about her surgery, it looks fine, not too overdone like so many). In fact, the first standing ovation of the night came from her operatic, yes, operatic rendition of Nessum Dorma followed by another for the Kander and Ebb classic The World Goes Round from New York, New York.
Not to be out done, Donny showed he's still got the chops and the moves to compete with any current day boy band member as he sings his hits from Puppy Love to his "comeback" hit Soldier of Love.
The duo loves audience interaction, and this audience loved them, filled not with screaming pre-pubescent girls, but middle-aged screaming women all remembering the sex symbol he was, and the handsome man he still is, and the guys that grew up dreaming of Marie. They both look and sound great. I should know, Donny sat on the woman's lap next to me and put his feet across my legs. His legs felt fine tone and firm (yup, copped a feel of Donny Osmond).
Heavy on nostalgia, the audio / visual spectacular shows clips from shows in the '60s (Andy Williams gave them their start and Donny sang Moon River as a tribute), '70s, '80s, '90s and even Marie's new show on Hallmark Channel. Broadway marquis of their various plays (Marie has been in Sound of Music, and The King and I to name a few, while Donny has been in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and Beauty and the Beast as well) fill the big screen. It's a trip down memory lane and even a look forward as the duo sing their new, yes, new hit Beautiful Life from their first studio album in 30 years. This show marked a lot of firsts, including the first time the duo has performed together on stage in Los Angeles in their lifetime... hard to believe.
Together; this brother and sister have become part of the American lexicon, part of our entertainment history and together on stage they look as natural together as peanut butter and jelly. Their history in the business is illustrious, complete with Donny winning Dancing With the Stars (something he didn't let Marie forget as he chided her throughout the night) and their polished, professional style creates a show for the Holidays that even the most unsuspecting person, like me, will enjoy if they let themselves.
Catch Donny and Marie over the holidays. She's still a little bit country, he's still a little bit rock 'n' roll and combined they prove that experience, talent and the love of performing can see an entertainer -- and audience -- through for life. The holidays are a little happier with these two celebrating them so don't miss the party.
Photos courtesy of BroadwayLA/Pantages