By Bill Robinson
Donny Osmond got his start in show business 50 years ago when, at age 5, he joined his brothers on the “The Andy Williams Show.”
He first gained fame as a child and then teen star with his sister, Marie. Fans of his early years remain passionate about him, but Osmond’s continuing show business success is based on his real, versatile talent, not simply nostalgia.
The doubts of any skeptic, including this reviewer’s, who attended Osmond’s Saturday concerts at St. Mark Catholic Church were dispelled by masterful performances demonstrating his range and depth.
Osmond may be unable to fully escape the aura of his early years, but he doesn’t try to avoid it. He also doesn’t mind gratifying the fans from his youth, even if he occasionally makes fun of his early self.
After showing a video of one of his childhood performances, Osmond asked, “Do you know who that little kid was on screen?” Everyone laughed when he said, “That was Justin Bieber, but I had the haircut first.”
As he entered from the back of St. Mark’s sanctuary and basked in the audience’s adulation, Osmond beamed with delight as several middle-aged women fulfilled their teen fantasies by throwing their arms around him. He even walked through a couple of rows to accommodate them.
Although Osmond sang a few of his early songs, most of Saturday’s performance was based on his more recent career. Several songs came from his successful Broadway musicals such as Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” and “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.”
The performance was primarily secular, but Osmond didn’t shy away from mentioning his Mormon faith. One of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s songs from “Dreamcoat” with its chords, sounds very Jewish, Osmond said, telling the audience they were about to hear a Mormon sing a Jewish song in a Catholic church.
Osmond also took his turn at the keyboard, and although he didn’t dance much Saturday, he frequently gloated about winning “Dancing with the Stars.” He’s also a pretty good comedian, even if most of the jokes Saturday were at the expense of his sister.
Although Marie wasn’t there in person, Donny still sang with her a couple of times as she appeared in a video recording.
As a tribute, Osmond sang “Moon River,” the trademark song of Andy Williams, who died last year. While Osmond’s voice may not be as smooth as Williams’, his has much greater range and strength.
That reservoir of talent, along with his personal charm, has kept Osmond going for half a century.
As he introduced them, Father Jim Sichko, St. Mark's pastor, paid Osmond and his crew an extraordinary compliment.
The priest said he quickly becomes close with the performers who come to Richmond for the “Evening Among Friends” series that benefits St. Mark Church and School.
However, none have been more kind, compassionate, caring or as Christ-like than Donny Osmond and his associates, Sichko said.
For the 5 p.m. show, 50 Mormon missionaries currently working in Kentucky were the church’s guests, he said.
“I don’t know how we could top this,” Sichko said of the concert, “unless we have Donny come back with Marie.”