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Donny Osmond brings his big white smile to the Great White Way

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Donny Osmond brings his big white smile to the Great White Way

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You know, it was almost inevitable that Donny Osmond would wind up appearing in Disney's "Beauty & the Beast" on Broadway.

Photo by Jeff Lange

After all, back in 1962, the Osmonds supposedly got their start in big-time show business because they sang one day at Disneyland. As the story goes, Alan, Wayne, Merrill and Jay (l to r) ...

Copyright 1962 Walt Disney Productions

... were having a spontaneous barbershop-quartet duel with the Dapper Dans. Tommy Walker, the then-director of entertainment at the Anaheim theme park, happened upon this singing showdown and liked what he saw. So he quickly signed the Osmond Brother Quartet to start performing at the park.

It was their Disneyland gig that eventually brought the brothers to the attention of "The Andy Williams Show." Which proved to be the perfect launching pad for this clean-cut family act.

Given the importance that the Anaheim theme park played in their careers, the Osmond family has always had a soft spot when it came to "The Happiest Place on Earth." So when company officials asked Alan, Wayne, Merrill and Jay to take part in the park's 25th anniversary celebration, the brothers immediately said "Yes."

Copyright 1989 Walt Disney Productions

And after recreating their old "Side by Side" number, the brothers invited their younger sibling ... 

Copyright 1980 Walt Disney Productions

... up on stage to help wow the crowds down by the Rivers of America.

Copyright 1980 Walt Disney Productions

Of course, if you were to ask Donny himself, this 1980 performance wasn't his most memorable time at the park. Osmond prefers the period that he and his brothers spent at Disneyland back in 1969, when they were shooting the "Disneyland Showtime" episode for "The Wonderful World of Disney."

Copyright 1970 Walt Disney Productions

"Now you have to understand that I was only nine years old at the time we were shooting that show," Donny explained in a recent interview. "So as soon as my brothers and I finished shooting a musical number in the park ..."

Copyright 1970 Walt Disney Productions

" ... I'd have to go to school. Sit down with my on-set tutor and do my math."

"Well, there wasn't a whole lot of open office space at the park back then," Osmond continued. "So where Disney actually wound up setting up my classroom was inside the Haunted Mansion itself. Inside this empty room up on the second floor of the building."

Copyright 1970 Walt Disney Productions

"Now this attraction hadn't officially been opened to the public yet. But Disney was still in the process of testing the thing. So when I finished my homework, I'd sneak downstairs. And the Imagineers were nice enough to let me wander around behind-the-scenes at the attraction. Let me see how the Mansion really worked."

Copyright 1970 Walt Disney Productions

"That -- I think -- is my favorite Disneyland memory," Donny concluded. "To get behind-the-scenes at Disney's latest & greatest attraction before it actually opened for the public. I think that was pretty cool."

Mind you, Osmond's association with the Walt Disney Company wasn't just limited to television programs. Back in 1996, the folks at Disney Feature Animation asked Donny to come in, see if his voice would be a good fit for "Hercules."

Though WDFA staffers were clearly impressed with Osmond's audition ... In the end, they decided that Donny's voice wasn't quite right for the part they were casting at that time. Which is why Roger Bart was eventually hired to provide young Hercules' singing voice.

Copyright 1997 The Walt Disney Company

But still, Donny's strong audition stuck in people's heads. Which is why -- the very next time that Feature Animation was looking for a performer to provide the singing voice for a new character -- they immediately called Mr. Osmond.

"They flew me in from Chicago where I was performing in 'Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat' at the time," Donny said. "Then they showed me a few drawings of the character that they wanted me to voice in 'Mulan,' plus about 15 seconds of pencil-test animation of Shang getting punched in the stomach. Then -- based on what little  I'd seen -- they asked me to sing this song in character."

Copyright 1998 The Walt Disney Company

Osmond immediately rose to the challenge. After listening to a recording of B.D. Wong (I.E. Shang's speaking voice in the film), Donny stepped into the recording booth and -- in one take -- nailed "I'll Make a Man Out of You."  

It's just that sort of professionalism (not to mention Osmond's obvious talent) that made Disney Theatrical think of Donny when they began toying with the idea of bringing in some celebrities to help boost "Beauty & the Beast" 's box office.

Donny, composer Alan Menken & Sarah Uriarte Berry
Photo courtesy of Google Images

"They originally approached me back in June or July,"  Osmond recalled. "I immediately said yes because I've always been a fan of the 'Beauty & the Beast' film. I flew into NYC, had 10 days of intense rehearsal and then went straight into the show."

Donny clearly relishes the role of Gaston, given that "Beast" 's villain spends the first half of the show being a comical buffoon and -- in the second half -- becomes a legimate villain. Still the part is not without its own unique challenges.

"It took me quite a while to get the hang of the tankard-clanking part of 'Gaston,' " Osmond explained. "If you don't put your hands in just the right place at just the right time, you could wind up with a broken finger. Or worse, you could break someone else's finger."

Donny officially opened in the show this past Sunday night. But -- being the old-style trouper that he is -- Osmond clearly understands the huge part that publicity plays in the success of a Broadway show. Which is why he's been making the rounds on all the New York-based talk shows. Like Donny's appearance this past Monday on "The View" ...

Copyright 2006 American Broadcasting Company

... Where -- in honor of Barbara Walter's 76th birthday -- Osmond and Rosie O'Donnell first serenaded the veteran journalist with a specially rewritten version of "Be Our Guest."

Copyright 2006 American Broadcasting Company

Then -- as confetti rained down from the rafters -- virtually the entire cast of Broadway's "Beauty & the Beast" ...

Copyright 2006 American Broadcasting Company

... as well as celebrity guests Beverly Sills (bottom left) and Liz Smith (center) joined Donny and Rosie on stage to sing "Happy Birthday" to Barbara.

In the photo above, please note the two tickets that O'Donnell is waving about. That's because -- in honor of Walter's birthday -- every member of the audience of Monday's taping of "The View" was given a pair of seats to Broadway's "Beauty and the Beast."

Speaking of "B & B" : Donny's currently signed to just do a nine week stint in the show. Though --  given how well tickets are now selling to this 12-year-old Broadway musical  -- Disney Theatrical is already allegedly talking with Osmond about possibly extending his engagement with the show.

Copyright 2006 Disney Enterprises

"Of course, what Disney doesn't realize is that -- this huge surge in ticket sales that they're seeing at the box office? That's just Osmonds buying tickets to the show," Donny joked.

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  • I think it was a good choice for Disney not to choose Donny Osmond to be Hercules' singing voice- Hercules is a little younger than Shang.  "I'll Make a Man Out of You" is such an amazing song (it was funny when I was playing when the Jim Hill home page opened and, lo and behold, there's Mr. Osmond!).  I wish I could see B&TB.  I'm sure Mr. Osmond is a great Gaston!
  • Possibly, but didn't the last time they tried propping B&tB up with soap stars, everyone said, "Haven't they closed it already??"  Apparently, Osmond, good; ABC soap stars, bad.
    And I'm sure the now stage-friendly Donny would be a perfect Gaston, but he should have been there earlier--Disney needs to think more about how they can bow out B&tB with a bang, rather than keep it on life-support for the out-of-towners, while the native-New Yorkers snicker behind its back.

    (Or, as Forbidden Broadway put it, back in '01:
    o/` "Just a little change/From the Disney feast/Profits growing thin/Downsizing is in/'Beauty''s been decreased...")  :)
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