UCR INTERVIEW: David Osmond The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber

The Really Useful Group in London has authorized a special, limited engagement of The Music Of Andrew Lloyd Webber to be produced almost entirely with Utah talent for Utah audiences in celebration of the return of live performance to Utah stages.

Emmy Award-winning Utah composer KURT BESTOR is collaborating with director LOUANNE MADORMA to bring this very special production featuring Utah musicians, singers, cast, crew and featured performers, including DALLYN VAIL BAYLES , DAVID OSMOND, Tony Award-winner LISA HOPKINS SEEGMILLER, LEXI WALKER and others, to the Eccles Theater, May 7th–15th.

Utah Concert Review Editor in Chief, Kevin Rolfe had the opportunity to chat with cast member, David Osmond leading up to Friday night’s opening performance.

Photo Credit:Russ Dixon

UCR:  I know what it feels like for me to once again prepare to cover a show but to be rehearsing and on a stage and listening to the music, what does it feel like to be preparing for an actual show?

David Osmond:  It is goosebumps! We were on stage yesterday and we’re doing our tech rehearsals and the lights are on and you smell that theater smell and everybody’s there and we’re going through the music and its great content. I just have a perma grin. I’m ear to ear, I’ve been able to grow up in the music world since I was a baby in so many different capacities of performing.

As a kid in a barbershop quartet and my brothers as a boy band back in the day to pop music and then the opportunity to get into musical theatre and perform doing Broadway tours and shows and of course “Joseph” was kind of the kingpin of that. I did five companies of it. To do that music again in this setting is epic. There’s nothing quite like it and to know that Eccles has been down for 14 months and this is like we’re kicking the cobwebs off and we’re bringing it back! And this is a Utah show with Utah’s finest. I’m honored to be part of the mix and I think the audience is going to be thrilled not just to be back in seats and not feel that live element again. But because of the show itself, it’s pretty epic.

UCR: I’m excited!  I believe the very last show at Eccles which was Dear Evan Hanson. Then everything stopped. I think this is the first show back so it’s a pretty good feeling to get back in there.   

David Osmond: Thank you for the coverage on this and thank you for the support. I understand that you know everything Eccles.

The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber

UCR: I don’t know everything Eccles, but I do love that theater.  The first time I heard this show was coming my initial instant was that it was a perfect idea. Andrew Lloyd Webber has such a universal appeal, they didn’t even announce the cast and it was already like there’s a buzz about it. Now, we know who the cast is and I think people are even more excited about this concert.  

Can you tell me a little bit about how this whole show came together? How this group of people came together.  Was it like “We’re all friends. What we can do? Let’s put something together.” Or someone put this show together then reach out to some local artists,  and it’s not really fair to say local Utah artists. It’s more people who are from Utah maybe originally or are based here but all of you seem to have some international acclaim.

David Osmond:  Well thank you for that. I really appreciate it. Certainly, before this show happened, we were all friends. Everybody in the cast I know and have performed with them. We’re friends off the stage as well and as we have a great report and great tie. For this the kickstarter for this we owe to Magic Space. They were able to create this with their relationships with Eccles. 

When it comes to Andrew Lloyd Webber, the name, that title, the brand sells itself. But honestly, to be able to pull that off, you need to have the talent to back it up to be able to carry that material through. This cast is phenomenal. I mean, just being on stage yesterday for the first time with everybody. We did a little soundcheck and it was the first time with the mics. You can just feel the vibe. It’s going to be excellent. Dallyn Bayles, I’ve known him for so long. He’s just a good friend. Lexi Walker, and I’ve done so many things together. Lisa Hopkins Seegmiller, Tony Award-winning talent out of New York. She’s phenomenal. But Utah is the home, right? Nicole Riding, she’s fantastic. She’s Utah as well just moved to Rexburg so we’re bringing her back then.

UCR: Okay, bringing her home. Nice. 

David Osmond: Kurt Bestor. I’ve known him literally since I was just a wee lad. Here was my swim coach when I was just a baby. We grew up together.  We’ve done so many productions together. When he was involved, I was like, yeah, this is going to be epic. Then Luann (Madorma) is our director, she’s incredible. She’s done a lot of shows with Andrew Lloyd Webber. She’s out in Vegas, doing a lot of stuff at the Winn. She’s just a world-class director. When we first sat down a couple of days ago, it was like, we had never worked together. but we’d worked together in a roundabout way.

All these circles. We’ve crossed paths for so many years from New York to LA and it’s incredible. The theatre world is a small world and it’s like a family and already, we just have just a report and a vibe. The One Voice Children’s Choir are going to be part of the show. I’ve done so many things with them. They’ll be here.

We have some incredible dancers as well, that we work together. They’re homegrown Utah, but they have a national stage spotlight there. They’re acclaimed that way.  Every major reality show from The Voice, to America’s Got Talent, to American Idol. Every one of those producers that I’ve rubbed shoulders with have told me that Utah is like the Graceland. That whenever they have a show, and they know they need to pull good talent, Utah’s at the top of the list, and there’s no question about that. There’s such amazing talent in this state. It’s awesome to be able to showcase it and I’m honored to be a part of the mix.

Photo Credit: Russ Dixon

Talent in Utah

UCR: That’s awesome and you’re so right. I’m originally from Southern California and understandably there’s a lot of talent there. But the population is enormous. So sure you can pull from that. I’ve always been so impressed with the amount of talent in Utah. And how deep that pool is in a state that isn’t as populated as others. Why do you think that is? What is it about this place where culture and the arts are so rich, and the talent is so deep despite not having the population of a California or New York?

David Osmond:  That’s a great question. A great question.  I come from a large family and family is important, and I grew up thinking every kid’s dad did this thing called Show Biz. He’s of the original Osmonds. he was the oldest.  I just saw my dad on stage touring and performing. So, for myself, it was a natural transition. I fell into the family business when I was very young before I knew it was a business. Obviously, Utah and family, that’s been a very synonymous term. I think the gatherings, the friends, the music really elevates a community and for some reason, Utah has caught that lightning in the bottle and has developed at a young age. There are world-class dancers, there’s the music performance, the Music, Dance Theatre, the programs from the University, and Utah State to BYU, and so many other universities.

So there is a breeding ground for the arts. I don’t know how it happened. I mean, you might even have a better answer, coming from Southern California. It’s kind of unique because you go to other places that aren’t as densely populated and, Utah, it’s not the same. There’s something unique about this state, and I don’t really is.  What do you think it is?

UCR: I’m not sure if I totally know, but one thing that kind of stands out, in contrast to other places I’ve lived. Southern California for example and this is a total generality, but I was born about 30 miles from Los Angeles. So, the feeling is you learn to sing, or play an instrument, or to act and if you’re pretty good, an agent might come by.  Or if you show some talent auditions aren’t too far away.  So the feeling was to learn these things with the hope of making it.  But here in Utah, it seems like the goal is to develop a talent for personal growth and a way to express yourself. So be whether it’s performing in church or school or the community, that’s what it’s for. 

Of course, some people have gone on to become very successful professionally, but I don’t think that’s the initial thought. “I’m going to learn how to sing or I’m going to learn how to play to become a famous musician”.  I think parents start their kids off in the arts so for the child’s own well-rounded development.   I think it’s similar to sports.  A kid joins soccer so for something to do, to get some exercise and make friends if they’re good they’ll keep progressing.  Otherwise, they just have that experience to grow from.  To me it’s the same with performing arts in Utah.  Since so many Utah kids are put into lessons, the pool deepens.  

David Osmond: I’ve never really thought about that’s an interesting insight. This isn’t about “I’m going to go get rich and famous. I’m going to enjoy this as an expression of art. This is how I either worship or, I have my creative outlet. It’s just fun.” It’s like either you get into the soccer world, club soccer, and I’m just obsessed with it. You get into the arts and you’re just obsessed with it because it is fulfilling in and of itself. I think you might be right.

David Osmond Big Band

UCR: Maybe, it’s just kind of the difference I noticed. I’ll use Hale Center Theatre, for example. Some of those leads are really very close to being able to join a national tour of something, I believe. But instead, they’re a dentist or a teacher, or a homemaker. You know, this isn’t even what they really do for a living and they’re that good. So, I think it’s just something people love. I don’t know if that’s really the reason but there’s something about this state and from top to bottom. You go all the way down to a Tuacahan or the Shakespeare Festival in Southern Utah and it’s as deep there as anywhere. This state is deeply talented from St. George all the way to The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber at the Eccles Theater.  

David Osmond:  I’ve traveled my whole life and going to school at NYU and doing the national tours, and just on tour doing musical all over the place. We always kept roots in Utah because we love Utah. I love the mountains, I mean, there’s so much accessible to us so quickly and so closely, and if I gotta get to LA, where I do a lot of work, it’s close. I host a Kid’s TV show, I filmed that in New York, and I’m on every weekend for the last five years. But I kept roots in Utah because this is home and this is I mean, no matter what, I want to get off the road, and I want to come back to this vibe.

The people that are here, they might be dentists, they might be homemakers, like you said, but also a lot of this talent. They have had the national spotlight, they have done the tours, they have gone to Broadway, they have gone to LA and have done really cool, amazing projects and then there’s also a lot of unknowns that are just right there that could just explode and burst. But I think Utah is what is the magnet that pulls us back because it’s just a fun, cool vibey place to live. Just look at our backyard. I mean the Wasatch Front is just gorgeous. Here, you’re half an hour from the slopes, you’re two or three hours from the National Parks and I mean, I feel like I’m on the Chamber of Commerce.

 UCR: Something that’s always been one of my favorite things about being in a show, whether it’s performing in a band or on a musical theatre stage getting to that moment in rehearsal where the lightbulb goes off and it’s like, we have a show. Whether it’s a Broadway review, whether it’s an actual, full-stage production. When was that moment for you with this show? Where you realize this is going to be awesome.

David Osmond: It was last night. It was last night when we finally did our rehearsals. We’ve been going through the music individually, obviously haven’t been able to get together much up until just this week.  The music’s great. Like I’m about ready to go out and sing for the first time on stage, “Oh, what a circus” from Evita. That’s why I’m dressed like this.  (David is dressed in a white collared shirt and black vest.) 

UCR: Che! What’s up?

David Osmond: But we went on stage yesterday and we put on our wardrobe. We’re testing things out, seeing what they look like. We’re dialing in the lights. We got the mics for the first time and I’m standing on stage with, Down Lisa, Nicole, and Lexi and it’s the five of us up there. I’m looking at this epic theatre and it’s just the lights. It’s just us, just sound, just the director and just Kurt as the MD (Music Director) and as we started singing some of the songs together, I’m like, “This is going to be crazy. This is going to be awesome.”

I can just feel after 14 months of vacancy in this space, there’s going to be people sitting right here three feet from me. They’re just going to be in tears. They’re going to be giddy. They’re going to have goosebumps and the material sells itself. But the visual, the big LED screens, the lights, how we’re dialing those in. It is a show. It’s a spectacular show. It hit me yesterday. This is going to be awesome. This is going to be so cool, and I mean, maybe this is something that you probably even tour and iterations of the music of Andrew Lloyd Weber have been around. This could do really well, and we’ve got some more things to dial in certainly. For tech, but it felt really good. I had a big smile. I think everybody felt the same.

David Osmond’s connection with Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Music

UCR: Good! I’m really excited to see the show. I want to ask you about the music of Andrew Lloyd Webber. You’ve had a real opportunity in your life to perform this music, as you said on tours and leading roles. It seems to me like something that’s been a part of your life for a while now. What does his music mean to you and your musical journey?

David Osmond: I remember I was 12 years old, and I was in Toronto, Canada and I was there at the opening night of my uncle Donny, and a show called Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. I had no clue what that was. I met Andrew Lloyd Webber that night, I was able to meet quite a few people in his realm and this world and I’m 12 years old. But I remember sitting there in the theatre, this was one of my first experiences with Andrew Lloyd Webber and I just remember, not having any prep.

My parents didn’t say anything about this, oh, we’re going to go see Uncle Donny, and in the show, he’s doing, I’m just used to him doing “Soldier of Love” and “Puppy Love” and “Sacred Emotion”. “All right, it’s going to be awesome” He comes out with this wig and like, “What’s happening?” and this show took off. And Joseph is kind of like, the kickstarter for a kid into music theatre. It’s one of the great introductory pieces and I sat there as that kid just loving every moment, like, “what is this? This is so fun.” 

Little did I know that literally five years later, I would be offered the role of Joseph and take over. I went to Kingsbury Hall, and it was a regional company for about four or five months. I played the role there for several months there and then I got a call from the same company that I’d watched that opening night previous five, six years earlier, saying, hey, we’re going to bring Donny to Kingsbury Hall and we’re going to do the show for like, six, seven months and there’s a chunk of time that Donny has to leave the show so, we need a replacement.

I met the production management and everybody that I had previously seen at the Toronto opening, as I audition for them, they had me sing and immediately hired me on the spot said you’re our guy. Then they called my uncle to say “Hey, guess who we’re replacing you with.” 

And to come and be Donny’s replacement during that time and then a standby Joseph, and then he ended up getting laryngitis and super sick and I filled in all these shows for Donny and all of a sudden after that run with Really Useful Group, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s company, I got picked up as the full time Joseph for the national tour, and went on the road forever as this role. I had no idea what I was in for when I was 12. But when I first saw that show, and I first met Andrew Lloyd Webber, I knew there was something absolutely special and I fell in love with that music. It has a cadence to it. There’s something about his writing. It’s innocent, and it’s young and it’s lighthearted and it’s fun.

We’re singing songs like “No Matter What”. We’re doing, Love Changes Everything”. I went back and watched some of the early videos of like, okay, all these different people in performance have done “Love Changes Everything” and I found a video of a very young Donny Osmond actually at Royal Albert Hall back in England, singing this exact same production type song with a bunch of people and I’m like, this is like full circle again and it’s the music that connects it all.

There’s a sound to Andrew Lloyd Webber that is very unique. It’s very specific and Joseph was my first kind of foot in the door into musical theatre and ultimately going to NYU and going into the music department and all that stuff. It changed my life, and it started that night out that I met Andrew Lloyd Webber did at a young age. So, it’s just a thrill to be back on stage. It’s a blast from the past and hopefully, we’re going to do this. But the music has definitely been a part of my life for a long time and so many others. 

Replacing Donny Osmond as Joseph

UCR: That’s amazing. That’s such a cool story and thanks for sharing all that. I do want to tell you, in closing, and I’m sure you’ve heard this type of thing before, but I remember when Donny Osmond came to Kingsbury Hall to do Joseph. I wasn’t living here yet but I knew somebody who went the show when he was sick and I’m sure as you can understand, they were like, “wait, what? No Donny?!” But whenever that story comes up they always say to me that “David Osmond was incredible. if you get a chance to see him in Joseph or anything you should because they blew me away.” That had to have been such a strange experience to step into that role in that way.  

David Osmond:  Well, Donny, and he’s who he is. I tell people that role is a very small loincloth to fill. But Donny, he is the Joseph of all Josephs. He’s amazing! He was my first Joseph and the greatest compliment I think I got from that run to, and I shared this with the Magic Space people yesterday. I remember sitting up there, there were the shows that I replaced him with the three weeks that I was there, because he was not able to be there.

So, they advertised it as “Starring David Osmond”. So you know what you’re in for.  But on the many many many shows that I went up, and I hear the announcement, “The role of Joseph tonight will be played by…”  oh, I was, I’m 18 years old, sir. I’m thinking, “this is awesome.” I know what the significance is for the audience not getting Donny, and I felt so bad. At the same time, there’s this excitement and like, oh, my heart bleeds for them and you could feel the tension, like before the curtains even up.

But the two compliments I got from my aunt, Donny’s wife. She came backstage after the first time I filled in when it was supposed to be Donny and she just couldn’t believe it. She goes “David, this was the freakiest night of my life. Like, I couldn’t believe it. I’m sitting in the audience and I’m watching my husband 30 years younger and that’s, it was you, but it was the weirdest thing that it was flawless.” Then the ushers came and told me time and time again, people would leave the show and go, man, that was awesome. But I thought Donny was sick tonight. It was just like it was a seamless insert and that was the greatest compliment I could have got.

A little insight. Like this is crazy. When Donny started getting laryngitis I remember the first time he was struggling, he’s like, “David, I need you.” I would sit on the side of the stage and a couple of times just through the magic of theatre. He gets to that jail scene and he can’t produce and he’s like, “I need you to sing for me.” And I would go, (singing) “Close every door to me…” and I’m watching his lips. I’m like, “Hide all the world from me.” We try that a couple times and we were able to get through some of those big moments where I was able to cover him (singing.  Excellently I might add) “For know I shall find…), and I was able to kind of vocally be in the same space as him. DNA and genetics are crazy.

But it was eventually that a couple days later. When I was sitting downstairs, I’m not expecting like Donny’s going to be fine. It was right before the jail scene. He came running down into the dressing room. He goes (grabbing his throat and mimicking Donny with Laryngitis)  “David you’re on now!” So I’m stripping down, I’m throwing the wig on. “You have two minutes! Two minutes!” And the very first time I replaced him when he was sick. It’s the only time he’s ever done this. He’s in the jail scene, the “Close Every Door” moment, which is actually what I’m singing in this show. So, he’s beat down and he’s there. He’s about to start the big number and then he looks up and he broke the fourth wall. 

He goes, “Ladies and gentlemen. I’m so sorry. This, I’ve never done this. But I have to be honest with you. I am not able to continue the show. I have laryngitis. But I have a surprise for you. I’m going to bring out my nephew and you’re going to love him.” He was so kind. He says “Please welcome David Osmond”. It was so crazy to stand in the jail scene with Donny in the same wig. We didn’t even have time that first one to mic the wig and put on the head mic. I just had to run to the stage, and we talked for a little bit with the audience explained the situation.

He said, “David, it’s all yours”. And he left and handed me a handheld microphone and I sat down in the jail and we went right back into the role and we finished it and then it just continued from there show after show where I had to replace him and again. I felt bad. But that moment I’ll never forget.

I’m barely 18 standing here in this moment that I loved, I saw this as a 12-year-old like I want to be in this show so bad and here it is. It was a dream come true man. It was awesome and I’m so honored to hopefully have done him some justice and to the audience and giving them a good experience. Because ultimately that’s our goal is to leave them with a little joy. A little happiness a little more than what they came in from outside or you with that little spark that you can only get from theatre?

UCR: I have no doubt that not only did you do justice to him, but to yourself. You’ve gone on to have a successful career since you’re 18. Thank you for sharing that.  What an awesome story.  I’m so excited about this show.   I’m happy to hear you’re doing songs like “No Matter What” and “Love Changes Everything.”  Some of the Andrew Lloyd Webber deep cuts!

David Osmond: I was going to say these are not like the more traditional ones.  The lay user that knows Andrew Lloyd Webber, they’ll come and go, “Oh, I don’t know this song. This is a new experience.” And that’s what I think is cool is to give people a new experience, like they know Phantom, they know, Joseph.

UCR: And they’re going to get that.  But it’s always nice to sprinkle in, some stuff that’s really good. Then maybe someday that show will come through town and they’ll know it.  

David Osmond:  Yeah, absolutely. Thanks, man. I appreciate your enthusiasm, your support of the theatre and of this show. I really appreciate it.  

UCR:  Yeah, let’s do this again, sometime.

David Osmond: Anytime.

There are a limited amount of tickets still available to The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber. The show runs May 7-9 with two shows on the 8th and May 13-15 with two shows on the 15th. Click here to purchase tickets!

David has joined forces with award-winning band leader, Caleb Chapman and will be releasing a new album in June, The Osmond Chapman Orchestra, There’s More Where That Came From. For more information the Osmond Chapman Orchestra, their debut album, or everything David Osmond is up to head over to davidosmond.com

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