Tuesday, August 7, 2012

I'm leaving it all up to you

There are benefits to being married to someone with a chronic gambling problem who enjoys the occasional casino visit. Based on her tracked playing time, my wife and I have been flown, cost-free, to several out-of-state casino resorts. We've been "comped" for every meal and hotel stay for nearly five years and, best of all, we have received complementary admission to a plethora of entertainment. We have seen the likes of such varied acts as B.B. King, Don Rickles, Tony Bennett, Levon Helm, Bill Cosby, Blue Man Group, The Lion King and many others. I love live entertainment and I especially love free tickets. And there is very little I will turn down if its free. This past Saturday night will attest to that.

In a few short days, I will turn 51, so, accordingly, I grew up in the heyday of "bubble gum" pop music. Every AM radio blasted one hit wonders sung by Paper Lace, First Class and Edison Lighthouse. Motor-mouthed DJs announced the same "boss tracks" getting played practically five times every hour. This was also the time of the friendly rivalry between Motown soul popsters The Jackson Five and their whiter-than-white, mayonnaise-slathered Mormon counterparts, The Osmonds. The Jacksons were decidedly the cooler of the two family groups. Big brothers Tito and Jermaine provided funky bass and guitar accompaniment as little Michael twirled on blurred feet and belted out "I Want You Back" in his unmistakable falsetto. The Osmond brothers, on the other hand, were the safe, boy-next-door cuties that sang about bad apples and lazy rivers. I liked the Jacksons. The Osmonds were for girls.

In early June, my wife was offered a pair of tickets to a late summer performance by Donny Osmond and his sister Marie, in the main showroom at Caesars in Atlantic City. Donny and Marie, for Christ's sake! How could we turn that down? We were genuinely excited as the date approached. We anticipated a campy romp through the sugary-sweet career of the Osmond siblings, peppered with knowing winks and jovial self-awareness.

Boy, were we in for a surprise.

The date of the performance arrived and, with complementary ginger ales in hand, we took our seats in the upper section of the theater and waited for the lights to dim. The seats filled with patrons, mostly women of our age group, hoping to have an intimate encounter with that toothy twelve-year-old that graced the covers of Tiger Beat and 16 all those years ago. The curtained stage was flanked by two large video screens displaying random facts and trivia relating to Donny and his little sis. Soon, a countdown clock popped up on the monitors and ticked off the few exciting seconds until showtime. The theater darkened. The curtain lifted. The band kicked in - guitars wailing, horn section blasting, drums a-pounding. And suddenly, Donny and Marie Osmond descended the open staircase that served as the centerpiece of the stage. As their images flickered across the video screens, the middle-aged female contingency shrieked in delight and were immediately transported in their minds to a slumber party from days gone by. Donny, in a black shark-skin suit, prowled the edge of the stage, high-fiving and waving those he couldn't reach. Marie, in a black sequined, fringy number, stood at stage left, shaking her trim 52-year-old ass and flashing her famous giant incisors. The pair sang a medley of familiar and unfamiliar, mid-tempo tunes, addressed the audience with cutesy banter and rehearsed heartfelt "thank yous" and then the lights dimmed again.

A sharp guitar riff split the darkness and Marie, now clad in a purple version of her opening act costume, emerged from a cloud of dry-ice smoke at the rear of the stage. The guitar chords solidified and became instantly recognizable. As Marie pronounced the first lines of her solo portion of the show, I cringed. 

"Backstroke lover always hidin' 'neath the covers Till I talked to your daddy, he say"

"Holy shit!," I thought, "Marie is singing Aerosmith!"

In my peripheral vision, I could see Mrs. Pincus turn to me. She laughed and whispered, "If you could see your face right now!" For good measure, or perhaps to add insult to injury, Marie sprinkled in some verses from "These Boots are Made for Walkin'". She gave a half-hearted approximation of Joe Perry as she strummed a fake, Swarovski crystal-encrusted guitar that wasn't plugged in. I don't think it even had strings. Upon finishing her heavy metal massacre, Marie reminded everyone that she was on Dancing with the Stars, co-founded the Children's Miracle Network, performed on Broadway, has a new show premiering in the fall on The Hallmark Channel and that her son Michael had committed suicide. Then she sang some opera.

The Donny solo segment was a bit more accessible. He joked about his age, his appearance on Dancing with the Stars, and his sister. He took playful shots at Justin Bieber, his brothers and his teen idol status - capping the monologue with a stilted rendition of "Puppy Love".

The rest of the ninety-minute production became an uneven mish-mash of Broadway medleys, big band tributes, faux rock anthems and the occasional Osmond hit - all interspersed with video montages culled from fifty plus years of footage from TV and live shows.

On the whole, this was a show strictly meant for die-hard, life-long Osmond fans. No outsiders or fringe admirers, baby. This is hardcore. Donny's a little bit kitchy, but Marie's a little bit self-absorbed.

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