Farewell, Donny and Marie

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Donny and Marie Osmond are nearing the end of their residency at the Flamingo Las Vegas.
Donny and Marie Osmond are nearing the end of their residency at the Flamingo Las Vegas. Photo Credit: Courtesy of Caesars Entertainment
Paul Szydelko
Paul Szydelko

Donny and Marie Osmond will conclude an unlikely but undeniably successful decade of residency at Flamingo Las Vegas on Nov. 16.

When they began what was supposed to be a modest six-week concert engagement in September 2008, perhaps the Mormon siblings from Utah weren't front-of-mind to many Las Vegas Strip visitors. Cirque du Soleil productions and solo headliners such as Celine Dion, Elton John, Bette Midler and Cher at the Colosseum at Caesars Palace dominated the Las Vegas entertainment landscape.

"Everybody was wondering if it would be too camp or too much of a 'state fair' nostalgia thing to sustain, but the content of the show is what really proved this thing could last," said Mike Weatherford, a veteran Las Vegas entertainment reporter and author of "Cult Vegas: The Weirdest! The Wildest! The Swingin'est Town on Earth!" (2001).

"They came ready," Weatherford said. "People who weren't part of their fan base were surprised at how good they still were and how much energy and how much of that old-fashioned showmanship they had."

Because Donny and Marie were such a critical and popular success, their residency was extended multiple times. Their presence has loomed as large on the Las Vegas Strip as their smiling images on the giant building wrap on the Flamingo.

"There's an unwritten rule in show business, and that is you have to know when to stop. And unless you stop, you can't progress," Donny said on "CBS News Sunday Morning" on Sept. 8, when asked why they decided to end a show that is still drawing big audiences on the Strip.

Marie concurred: "I just think we're in a place where we have a lot of things we want to do," she said.

From a singing family that has been in the nation's pop culture consciousness since the 1960s, they starred in "Donny and Marie" (1976-79), she famously a little bit country and he a little bit rock 'n' roll.

Exuding a bright energy in the relatively intimate Flamingo showroom bearing their names, Donny and Marie belt a medley of pop songs in their opening. In a good-natured spirit of one-upmanship, they perform their own greatest hits, including "Paper Roses" for her and Puppy Love" for him.

In addition to new material, they sprinkle showstoppers from their days in musical theater. Marie starred on Broadway as Anna in "The King and I" and played Maria in "The Sound of Music." Donny starred in the "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" and appeared on Broadway himself in "Little Johnny Jones" and "Beauty and the Beast."

When they leave the Flamingo in November, Donny will continue work on his 62nd album. Marie replaced Sara Gilbert on CBS's "The Talk" beginning this week, and she also stars in the forthcoming Lifetime TV movie "The Road Home for Christmas."

Replacing them in the theater will be "RuPaul's Drag Race Live!" which Flamingo officials announced this week would begin and eight-month residency in January. From the creators of the Emmy Award-winning cable TV series, the revue will feature a rotating cast of famous drag queens singing and dancing. Producers say the show will be immersive and interactive, encouraging audience members' participation. Presale tickets will be available starting Sept. 10 at rupaulsdragracelive.com.

“It’s the end of the Donny and Marie show. It’s not the end of Donny and Marie,” Donny said on “Good Morning, America” when it was first announced that the show would be coming to a close. “There’s a bond here that will never be broken.”

The bond they created with audiences in Las Vegas, however, will be missed. They received ceremonial keys to the Las Vegas Strip last month to honor their decade of performances.

In an era in which many of the diva showcases on the Las Vegas Strip are overly choreographed with no room for banter or spontaneity, Weatherford said, Donny and Marie stood out. "They know how to work the room," he said.

With an assured dynamic only siblings have, Weatherford said, Donny and Marie formed an example of something increasingly rare in Las Vegas: an old-time sense of showmanship and personality independent of their currency as pop stars and their latest hit single on the charts.

Separately, they each bring their own talent, energy and charisma to the stage. Together, their unique chemistry has proven how important the personal touch is to audiences -- and how six weeks can become 11 years.

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