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Show 'n' tell: Donny Osmond

The other Osmond siblings have theaters in Branson, Mo., sell dolls on the home shopping network and write weepy self-help books. But not Donny. Of the whole family, he's by far the coolest — and not just because he claimed to be "a little bit rock n' roll" back in his heartthrob days. There always was a respectable hint of hesitation and underlying sadness in the comedy routines he performed in those ridiculous get-ups with his sis on the original "Donny and Marie Show."

And the natural, soulful twinge in his voice has yet to be browbeaten by even the worst of producers or the hokiest of songs. Now, in Broadway circles, he's a legit performer and personal friend of Andrew Lloyd Weber.

His two biggest stabs at acting and singing on the Great White Way — one a failure (1982's Little Johnny Jones), the other a triumph (the 1991 hit Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat) — are the events he considers most pivotal in his career. He continues exploring show tunes with his current album, This Is the Moment, a collection of Broadway songs he recorded with legendary knob-twiddler Phil Ramone. Friday, he'll swing into the Fox Theatre for a career-spanning show.

CL: How's the tour going?

Donny Osmond: Fantastic. It's just the right amount of old stuff and new stuff. I put "Puppy Love" and stuff in the show, as well as stuff from the current album.

What did you think of working with Phil Ramone on This Is the Moment?

It was great, but he put a lot of pressure on me. He told me we were going to record the album the same way he recorded the Frank Sinatra Duets album. He said, "You're only going to have two or three takes per song. You've been doing this 38 years. So perform!"

"Seasons of Love" (from Rent) feels like the most comfortable track on your new album in terms of your style, because it has that jazzy, light-soul sound.

I love that track, especially after I heard Stevie Wonder's version. I have to admit, I copied a couple of licks from Stevie. I even do a little tribute in concert to Stevie.

Doing the whole Broadway thing has given you new exposure in the gay community. Everybody's really into this album.

Yeah, I have a large gay contingent of fans. I think Star magazine came out with something that said like 43 percent of my fans are gay.

Did you like the way VH1 handled the "Behind the Music" episode?

Very much so, because they showed a real honest side that nobody ever really knew about me. It enabled the public to be educated to the fact that hey, I'm just like you. I deal with all kinds of issues.

One thing the show discussed was how a chance meeting with Peter Gabriel helped you come back in 1989 with "Soldier of Love." Have you been in contact with Peter Gabriel lately?

I wanted him involved in this album somehow, but he wasn't able to pop on over to the States.

It's fascinating how you guys hooked up and he was a catalyst for you.

Peter got a lot of notoriety, and he did turn around the perception [about me], but [producers] Carl Sturken and Evan Rogers were the ones who wrote and produced "Soldier of Love" and "Sacred Emotion" and those were the records that broke the ice.

People think of you as a performer first then as a singer. But shouldn't you get more recognition for your voice than for just being who you are — Donny Osmond, the personality?

When I started Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Andrew Lloyd Weber turned to me at the end of the curtain call ... and as the curtain was coming down, he turned to me and said, "Where have you been keeping that voice all these years?" And hearing that, at that moment, gave me the confidence to continue on and give 100 percent.

Do nice guys finish first or last?

The nice guys have to look at the business and put their noses to the grindstone. That happened to me back in 1982 when I opened and closed Little Johnny Jones on Broadway in the same night. At that point in time, I realized I can't rest on the laurels of the "Donny and Marie Show." I can't rest on the laurels of the "Puppy Love" era. I've got to start over.

It's not about being nice and polite. It's about being a businessman and being honest with who you are and what you're all about and recreating yourself. That takes work, and that takes thought and not just walking around flashing your teeth and taking the jokes about all the "goody-goodiness" of your career. It's like, you know what? Let's talk about my music. Forget about the goody-goody stuff. There's a lot more to it than the kid who used to have the pearly whites singing "Puppy Love." There's the voice. There's 38 years of experience. And when people see this show, they get it.

Donny Osmond performs Fri., June 15, at the Fox Theatre. Show time is 8 p.m. Tickets are $35-$50. Call 404-249-6400.??



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