Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Donny & Marie Provide Pleasant Presence for Christmas -- Theater Review

Theater Review

Donny & Marie: Christmas in Chicago
Oriental Theatre
Thru December 24

Although I recall the Donny & Marie variety show from the 1970s a little more fondly than it may be couth to admit, the only reason I was at the Oriental Theater on Tuesday night is because the Osmond siblings' holiday showcase was included in my Broadway in Chicago subscription.

That said, I sufficiently enjoyed myself and found Donny & Marie, now in their 50s, to be attractive performers. Although, in Marie's case, it looked like more than NutriSystem has been at work.

Neither is a fantastic singer, but as show business veterans for--as Donny attested--49 years, both are affable professionals who aim to please.

If you are so inclined to take in their Christmas show, there is no reason I will suggest not to, though neither am I recommending that anyone else rush down and catch the act.

As one might expect, Donny & Marie do a bunch of Christmas songs. These are pleasant enough, though fairly predictable and straightforward (far be it for the Osmonds to include a bit of irreverence or subversion in their repertoire). They also perform their respective pop hits and a nice selection of Broadway songs from shows they've been in.

On opening night in Chicago, the balance between scripted and off-the-cuff seemed to be off-kilter, as Donny & Marie would be engaged in some fun sibling banter, but then far too quickly rush into a song off their latest album. Though they've been playing Vegas, their show here needs some better pacing and direction. And while I can't deny smiling upon hearing "I'm a Little Bit Country, I'm a Little Bit Rock 'n Roll" from their old TV show, a few too many of their numbers were rather blah.

Oddly, one of the best parts of the night occurred when Marie brought an audience member onstage. It was Ronnie "Woo-Woo" Wickers, the longtime Cubs fan dressed in full uniform. She had no idea who he was, but still interacted rather charmingly. Not to be outdone, Donny later brought Woo-Woo back for an encore.

Later, Marie rather bravely spoke of her late son, who committed suicide last year, before doing an Andrew Lloyd Webber operatic song I didn't recognize. Though obvious, "Memory" would've been a better choice.

But it was nice to see Donny & Marie come across more human and self-deprecating than one might expect, and for a night of entertainment one could do worse. It was also far from the best show I've ever seen, but not bad for a family affair.

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