Big Interview: Jay Osmond on his new stage show, The Osmonds: A New Musical coming to the Grand Opera House

A new musical about vocal harmony group, the Osmonds, will be staged at the Grand Opera House next month. HELEN MCGURK talks to its creator, Jay Osmond

By Helen McGurk
Friday, 25th March 2022, 5:06 pm
Jay Osmond in Belfast for the launch of The Osmonds: A New Musical at the Grand Opera House
Jay Osmond in Belfast for the launch of The Osmonds: A New Musical at the Grand Opera House

“Our song Crazy Horses was banned in South Africa because they thought it was about drugs. I said, ‘Really? C’mon, we’re The Osmonds.” laughs Jay Osmond, flashing that famous toothsome megawatt Osmonds smile.

The fourth youngest of the nine-strong Osmond family, sees the absurdity of the accusation because as everyone knows, the Mormon minstrels were a famously squeaky-clean band of brothers, eschewing rock and roll’s twin evils of drink and drugs, to produce wholesome, harmony-drenched pop tunes.

Jay Osmond, 67, is in Belfast to talk about his upcoming show The Osmonds: A New Musical at the Grand Opera House.

He describes it as a “living memoir”, which tells the true story of how the five brothers from Utah were pushed into the spotlight as children and went on to achieve superstardom, selling over 100 million records and winning 59 gold and platinum awards in the process.

“It has taken me five years to put it together,” says Jay.

“Condensing more than 50 years into a two-hour show, with almost 30 songs, was the hard part. That’s why it’s so fast-paced.

“It’s not a concert or a tribute band show, or even a juke box musical. I take people on a musical journey through what it was like from my point of view. It’s about the ups and downs, the highs and lows, the good times, the bad times. So much happens.”

ALL THE HITS

The musical features a chart-topping list of anthems including Love Me For A Reason, Let Me In, Puppy Love, One Bad Apple, Long Haired Lover From Liverpool, Paper Roses and many more, taking audiences back to relive the 60s, 70s and 80s.

“It’s like a time machine. People say it makes them feel like 15 again,” he says.

Jay was the drummer for the family quintet. He also shared lead vocals on the hard rock, musically divergent, Crazy Horses, which was about gas-guzzling cars, rather than narcotics.

According to Jay, his father George, a World War II veteran, was the “backbone” of the group and he wishes he, and his mother Olive, were still alive to see the musical.

“The hardest part of this show is how to portray my father. Mother was pretty easy because she was always positive and very upbeat.

“My father was an army sergeant and he was a good disciplinarian, but he wasn’t abusive in any way. He was very strong and tender at the same time. My father was a great man. He’s been the most difficult one to cast for.”

George Osmond instilled a firm set of values in his children - faith, family and career - in that order.

“Whenever we were up against anything it was always in that priority system. And we had a voting system and a way of working out problems.”

There are scenes in the musical which Jay still gets emotional watching.

“A lot of people don’t know what we were up against as a family. There’s one scene where we have a family meeting - and without giving too much away, it’s really tough... you can hear a pin drop, it’s so quiet when the audience is listening.

“You wouldn’t believe some of the obstacles we overcame as a family. It would have broken most families in a normal situation.”

CLEAN-LIVING

The Osmonds’ vocal harmonising is technically on the same level as the Beach Boys and the Beatles (the family spent 10 years as a barber shop quartet before making their way into recording). Unfortunately, they weren’t take as seriously as those bands. Did their devout faith prevent them being a credible musical force?

“We were up against nightmare stuff. We were told even back in the 70s that we would never make it in rock n roll because we didn’t smoke or drink or take drugs,” says Jay.

“But, my father said persistence and determination are the two keys that make success and that’s we did, we persisted and were determined. This musical shows how hard we worked.”

His brothers Donny and Merrill have seen clips of the show and have given it their seal of approval.

“I received an email the other day from Donny and he said ‘I am blown away - especially with the reviews’. He said ‘I knew you could to it’.

“Then I got one about a month go from Merill saying ‘Proud of you, Jay’.

“Five years ago when the producer came to me with the idea (for the musical) I went to my brother Merrill and said I think this is really amazing, we have a great opportunity to tell our story, but he couldn’t because of a project he was working on, but he said ‘I know you can do it’.

“At first I was a little depressed about it because I never thought I could do this on my own, I always had a brother to do things with me, but it’s amazing how it’s come out.

“After five years of seeing it on paper, and then to see your life acted out on stage, how surreal that was to me, and still is.”

The whole process, he says, has been a kind of “therapy” for him.

“And thank goodness for my journals. My mother was adamant about us writing in journals.”

It’s been a long road to get the musical from concept to stage, but Jay is clearly chuffed with the result.

“I think of all the projects I have ever done, this is the one I am most pleased with,” he says, that signature Osmond smile lighting up the room.

The Osmonds: A New Musical, opens at the Grand Opera House, on April 12. Ticket Booking: https://www.goh.co.uk/whats-on/the-osmonds-a-new-musical/

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