Donny Osmond Reveals “Mulan’ Will Be His Greatest Legacy: ‘Disney Films Last Forever’
Donny Osmond remembers excitedly listening to the Top 40 countdown on February 13, 1971, when “One Bad Apple” by the Osmonds hit number one. “We heard the intro of our song,” recalls Donny to Closer. “My brothers and I were together, screaming our heads off! We were number one! It’s a moment I will always cherish. I’m getting chills remembering it right now.”
In a career that spans six decades, Donny, 65, has been a teen idol, a pop star, a TV host, a Broadway leading man, a Las Vegas sensation and more. And he’s not done yet! After wrapping up the month of May at Harrah’s Las Vegas, he will be heading out on his first North American tour in seven years. “Everything I’ve done in show business is in this show,” he explains. “It’s six decades in 90 minutes.”
So, your entire public life is represented in your new show?
“This show spans from the beginning of my career to the present. That’s the exciting concept of it. There’s a segment in the show I call ‘the Request.’ It’s incredibly complicated technically but very simple on the outside. Anyone can request any song I have ever recorded, and we will perform it.”
That’s a lot of material. Would you even sing something obscure like “Old Man Auctioneer” off your 1976 album ‘Disco Train’?
“Somebody just requested that! That album — just stop! [Laughs] But we did it. We pulled it off. It’s fun for us and keeps everyone on their toes because the show changes every night.”
It must take an unbelievable amount of energy.
“It does take a lot of energy. It’s pretty funny. Somebody recently asked me, ‘How long did it take you to put this show together?’ And I said, ‘Sixty years.’ [Laughs] It feels odd to say it’s been six decades because I’m only 65. But that’s what happens when you start when you’re 5.”
You and your sister, Marie Osmond, had a tremendous 11-year run in Las Vegas. Was it scary to start a new residency as a solo act?
“I took a huge risk when I decided to come back to Vegas as a solo act. It was very risky to come back by myself to see if I could do it again on my own. But we just got award after award, so the show is working.”
If the opportunity ever presented itself, would you perform with your family members again?
“My brothers are pretty much retired. As for me and Marie, I don’t think we’ll ever do another residency like we did at the Flamingo. This is the crème de la crème show for me, because where do I go from here? This is my focus, and it’s working. People love the show. The reception has been absolutely amazing.”
I bet a lot of younger fans don’t realize how long you’ve been a performer.
“People know me from different moments in my life. So, depending upon the generation you talk to, I am known for specific things, like Dancing With the Stars, The Masked Singer, The Donny and Marie Show or The Andy Williams Show. I did a little meet-and-greet recently. There was this lady with her daughter, who was probably in her late 20s, and she said, ‘I had no idea you were Capt. Shang from Mulan!’ She didn’t realize I was in the Disney movie.”
You’re a husband, a father of five and a grandfather of 14. How have you managed to have a personal life?
“You have got to balance your life. I have seen many people get out of balance. So many great opportunities come across my desk, and I’d love to do all of them. But at some point in time, the thing that can get pushed to the wayside is your family. It’s easy to say to your family, “I have to do this. I’ll be right back.” But if you do that, you’ll miss out on a lot of stuff.”
Have you and Debbie ever splurged on something huge for your family?
“I have a piece of property that I turned into a place for my grandchildren to play. There are waterfalls and gardens. There’s an orchard. For every grandchild, we plant a tree. We have a beautiful swimming pool.”
That sounds lovely!
“It’s just a place where my family can come and convene. There’s a big fire pit where we can make s’mores and talk with a stream that almost wraps around this fire pit. It’s covered by pine trees and you feel like you’re just out in the woods or the mountains.”
After you became a father and grandfather, did you feel that you understood your own parents better?
“Yes, every single day. It hasn’t been easy raising five boys. The more you show unconditional love for them, the easier it can be, but it never eliminates all of the big issues. We went through a time when we didn’t have any money, although there was certainly a lot of love in the home. I lost everything in the ’80s and almost had to declare bankruptcy.”
That must have been hard to deal with.
“Money doesn’t bring happiness. It’s more important to have unconditional love that doesn’t cost anything. We’ve tried to create that kind of environment in our home, and hopefully that attitude has spread in our children’s homes. It has a lot to do with loving each other, loving our neighbor, loving God and being kind. We certainly need a little bit more of that in this world.”
What do you think will be your legacy?
“Mulan. When that opportunity came along, I had no idea what would occur. But when you do a Disney film, it lasts forever. The other stuff that I’ve done in my life belongs to my life span. But because Disney films are animation, they’re not tied to one person. Mulan is one of the Disney classics.”
What would you tell your teenage self if you could?
“I would tell myself to have patience. I went through a lot of terrible anxiety in my 30s. It started when I was about 11 years old. The pressure of show business came to a head when I was in my 30s while playing Joseph [in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat]. I didn’t have enough patience to realize, ‘Donny, you’re only human. You’re going to make mistakes. It’s OK.’ So many people beat themselves up when they try to be perfect. There’s no way we can be perfect. We can only try.”