Donny & Marie: Sibling revelry
See those two up there? That’s how it’s done. That’s because she’s a lot more than a little bit country and he’s a lot more than a little bit rock ’n’ roll. And together, ever-wholesome Donny & Marie epitomize what Vegas Strip entertainment—its global “Sin City” siren song notwithstanding—was founded upon: showmanship.
In that spirit, it’s reasonable to slot the Osmond sibs—a Flamingo staple since 2008—in the line of descendants flowing down from the Rat Pack, Elvis and Wayne Newton. (Actually, the family ties to this town stretch back to the mid-’60s, when The Osmonds opened for Shirley Bassey at the former Sahara, and the mid-’70s for Marie, who paired with Donny at the Tropicana.)
Should that seem like an outsize claim, a visit to the Donny & Marie Showroom can validate the emotional connectivity generated between the toothy twosome and the crowd. Though video memories are liberally sprinkled throughout the production, there’s little techno-fussiness and spectacle-obsessiveness, which can both dazzle and distance headliners from their audience. Rather, the stars draw you in with talent and energy wrapped in genuine warmth.
You see it in the joy these two take in their performance. In the endearingly corny teasing that echoes their ’70s TV show (updated with a Donny quip about Marie’s Nutrisystem spokeswoman gig and ribbing over each’s Dancing with the Stars stints). In Donny’s tabletop hops, joshing the crowd. In Marie flirtatiously roaming the front rows and leaning down from the stage to make contact, even leaving her lipstick signature on a lucky bald head. In Donny’s eye-rolling exasperation with singing “Deep Purple,” mocking its head-bopping but catchy hokeyness.
And, of course, you get the hits in duet segments bookending the 90-minute fun fest—opening with their signature “It Takes Two"—with extended solo segments by each in between, propelled by a live band and enlivened by backup dancers.
You get his “Puppy Love,” “Soldier of Love,” “Crazy Horses,” “Yo-Yo” and “Go Away Little Girl,” complete with self-deprecating asides about his teen idol days from the man who’s a granddaddy. You get his touching tribute to musical mentor Andy Williams and to his days alongside his brothers. You get her “Paper Roses,” “These Boots Are Made for Walkin’” and a gorgeous, operatic “Pie Jesu.” You get selections from their Broadway hits—his (Little Johnny Jones) and hers (The Sound of Music). You get sibling teamwork on “I’m Leaving It All Up to You” and yes, “I’m a Little Bit Country, I’m a Little Bit Rock ’n’ Roll.”
Like the best entertainers, Donny and Marie bust through that invisible barrier that artists sometimes erect, inviting you into their orbit. Yes, it’s performance—they’re not going to join you for a post-show pizza. Yet in the moment, it’s real and comfortingly nostalgic.
Among audiences of a certain age—the 50-plus crowd of which they are a part (he’s 59, she’s 57)—the bond is strongest. However, in 2017 America, the absence of irony, explicitness, sarcasm and cynicism inside the Donny and Marie Showroom is a throwback all ages can use right now.
It takes two—these two.