Oh Yes He Is!
Its pantomime season and all over the country millions of people have been to see all kinds of performances from the annual professional theatre presentations to the village and town amateur production. This uniquely British form of entertainment has at it heart a show that will thrill and excite children, mixed with old-time vaudeville, the seriously ‘corny’ one – liners, men dressed as women, women dressed as men, audience participation, plenty of slapstick and a plot straight out of the tales from the brothers’ Grimm. In 2009 I found myself waiting to interview a man who belongs to one of the most successful American show business families in entertainment history. During the seventies they were challenged only by David Cassidy and David Essex for the affections of every girl I’d known. They were and still are the Osmonds. A family of brothers and a sister who seemed to take the pop world by storm, arriving at Heathrow airport to the sounds of thousands of screaming fans, reminiscent of, and not seen since the 60’s ‘Beatlemania’. In most bands there is often a clear favourite with the fans and without question that crown belonged to Donny. However, there was one member of the band that came onto the music scene in one of the most irritating yet successful of ways. His name, Jimmy Osmond. He remains the youngest performer to have a No. 1 single in the UK singles chart, with “Long Haired Lover from Liverpool” the Christmas number one in 1972 , which eventually sold 998,000 copies. That week in 2009 saw the end of his roll as Buttons in the pantomime Cinderella at Northampton’s Royal and Derngate theatre, and I was wondering why an American, a very famous American would want to be involved with a performing art which had always been seen as quintessentially british. I guess it came as no great surprise to me that Jimmy can best be described as a throughly charming, proffesional family man with an infectious sense of humour. He told me that he has always been fascinated by pantomime and I wondered just how good he might be. More importantly, what would audiences think of him? Well, we went to see the show and, without exception, it was the best pantomime production that I’ve ever seen. The full house audince of children and adults took to Jimmy immediately who, in turn seemed to be so at home in the genre. He remains an extremely busy man, combining his roll as one of the touring Osmonds with that of an independent performer who then moved on to London’s west end starring in another independent production. The whole thing left me wondering if there might be other American artists willing to pick up the pantomime batton where Jimmy had left it in Northampton. Any ideas?