TORONTO – Donny and Marie Osmond brought their stage spectacle to Toronto on Wednesday night, wowing an adoring crowd with a diverse, high-octane show that included elements of Broadway, big band, rock, country and opera – as well as a heavy dose of 1970s nostalgia and the duo’s trademark cheesy banter.
“I feel like I’m home here,” said Donny, who lived in the city in the 1990s while starring in “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” a production that breathed new life into his career.
“Donny and Marie Live” – which runs until July 17 – is a variation of the toothy duo’s Las Vegas act, which started out as a six-month gig but was so popular it has been extended through the end of 2012.
The show the siblings put on Wednesday night was a masterful mish-mash of old and new from the moment they stepped onstage singing “It Takes Two,” Marie sporting a skin-tight sparkly black Bob Mackie number that she’d recycled from the late ’70s.
Throughout the night, a giant screen projected clips of the pair’s career, including appearances on “The Andy Williams Show,” where the Osmonds got their start, and the popular ’70s “Donny & Marie” TV variety show that famously pegged her “a little bit country” and him “a little bit rock ‘n’ roll.”
The first half of the show was largely devoted to Marie: as a vintage clip showed her performing “Paper Roses,” she strode onstage in a sparkly purple bodice and long skirt, finishing up the tune. The golden-oldie soon morphed into a mashup of “Walk this Way” and “These Boots Were Made For Walking” as she strummed on a sparkly “M” embossed guitar.
Both Donny and Marie repeatedly thanked fans for allowing them five decades in show business.
The experience showed.
Brother and sister deftly worked the audience: Donny hugged a squealing female audience member and urged the crowd to get up and move while Marie pulled an elated man onstage to dance with her.
The light-hearted mood turned sombre, however, as Marie spoke of her longtime work with the Children’s Miracle Network and dedicated an operatic song to her son, Michael Bryan, who committed suicide last year.
The singer seemed genuinely touched to receive several standing ovations: “You keep doing that and I’ll never let what’s-his-face out here,” she quipped.
Still, she was good-natured about the performer the female fans in the audience were clearly waiting for: “I know that you’re here to see Donny,” she said.
Donny and Marie have been enjoying a career resurgence in recent years thanks, in part to high-profile stints on separate seasons of “Dancing With the Stars” (Marie was a finalist in 2007 while Donny won his bid in 2009).
Not surprisingly, the competition was fodder for some of the duo’s famous repartee on Wednesday night. The second act of the show began with a montage of “DWTS” highlights followed by a mock Donny and Marie dance-off.
“At least when I dance, I don’t drop,” taunted Donny, referring to his sister’s fainting episode on the show.
After that, it was Donny’s turn to take centre stage, once again rhapsodizing about his time in the city doing “Joseph.”
“My wife and our youngest (son) are coming in a few days and we’re going to go to our old neighbourhood, Mount Pleasant… and drive down to Niagara-on-the-Lake (Ontario) to get some fudge,” he said.
“My memories of Toronto go back to the (Canadian National Exhibition). You remember my brothers, don’t you?”
From there he donned a scarf in his trademark purple and sang the Osmonds hit “Yo-Yo” with a group of dancers, precisely mimicking a video of the same moves he and his brothers performed years ago.
As audience members screamed their approval, he moved on to hit after hit: “One Bad Apple,” “Go Away Little Girl” and, of course, “Puppy Love.”
“That’s Justin Bieber up there,” he joked as a shaggy-haired teenage photo of him appeared on the video screens. “I had the haircut first!”
He then launched into “Any Dream Will Do” and “Close Every Door” from “Joseph,” even pulling out the skimpy loincloth he wore in the show.
“You think showbiz is pretty glamorous, right? You try doing that show for six years in diaper,” he deadpanned.
Both siblings seemed struck by the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, an airy, opulent facility that opened a few years ago and is home to the Canadian Opera Company and the National Ballet of Canada.
“What a beautiful place to play,” said Donny as he surveyed the theatre.
The Toronto shows come just weeks after the release of the pair’s first album together in 30 years. “Donny and Marie” was produced by country producer Buddy Cannon, who has worked with Kenny Chesney.
They’ve both spoken about how their audiences now seem to span several generations and that range was evident at Wednesday’s show. At one point Marie asked two tweens who were sitting up front: “Do you even know who we are?”
Despite the humour, the pair seemed genuinely grateful for the Toronto welcome. After receiving a rapturous standing ovation to end the night, they again referenced the fact that they’ve been making music for almost a half-century.
“After all these years of performing…” began Donny, trailing off as the applause swelled.
“This never gets old,” added a choked-up Marie.
They then launched into “May Tomorrow Be A Perfect Day,” the ditty penned by brother Alan Osmond that closed their variety show each week.
“Good night everybody!” they said with a wave.