I’m not sure what expectations I had of Jimmy Osmond’s tribute show to Andy Williams, Moon River and Me. I wouldn’t call myself a fan of Andy Williams, although many of his recordings are absolute classics, and really stand the test of time. I guess you’d say that it just hasn’t ever been very trendy to like him. Similarly, I wouldn’t have called myself an Osmonds fan, but I liked most of their records (OK when they got very slushy I’d have to reach for the Junior Seltzer) and when we came to see them at the Derngate a few years ago, I was very impressed.
And none is more impressive than Jimmy Osmond – he’s 53 now, so I think it’s fair to have dropped the “Little” from his name. He embodies showmanship in a very unflashy, respectful, kindly, welcoming way. He is the perfect front man, still with a great voice and a warm personality, not remotely afraid to take the mickey out of himself, and very generous with allowing other performers to shine on the stage. When we saw him in Cinderella at the Royal and Derngate in 2008, not only was it his first appearance in panto, it was also our first attendance at a Royal and Derngate show. So I reckon Jimmy and me go back a long way.
Moon River and Me takes as its starting point, and its backbone throughout the evening, the career of Andy Williams, and how it was firmly linked with the early days of the Osmonds – they guested on his TV shows back in the 60s and it was where they got their first big break. Clearly there was a great chemistry between Mr Williams and the Osmonds – an affection that has carried on to this day, despite Mr Williams’ death in 2012. But the show is not (to my surprise) exclusively Williams. There’s a whole range of ballads and pop, mainly from the 1960s, as well as an Osmonds section. And it’s not just Jimmy Osmond singing – he has two guests: the charming Emily Penny who gives us a fun Downtown and a brilliant Anyone Who Had a Heart; and the amazing young Charlie Green who astonished me with his vocal maturity with songs like Born Free, Alfie and (my favourite performance of the night) Maria; all backed by a great four-piece band.
Technology also allows Andy Williams to join us in some of the numbers; I’m never entirely sure about how I feel about seeing entertainers, who have died, still virtually performing alongside live performers, but Jimmy’s duet with Andy on Moon River worked extremely well. A word of appreciation to the technical crew – the show looks great, with lots of video footage and photos montaged on screens, as well as the apparently live Mr Williams at the top of his game. But also the light show was just perfect to enhance but not overwhelm the performers and the sound quality was absolutely superb; not over-amplified, never distorted, always crisp, clear and in total balance so you could hear every word.
As always, when you go to see someone live, they don’t perform your favourite songs. It’s an unwritten law of live music. My favourite two Andy Williams songs are Home Lovin’ Man and It’s So Easy – and neither got an airing. In the brief (too brief?) Osmonds section, my favourite song of theirs, Goin’ Home, was also sadly missing. But we did get a great singalong version of Love Me For a Reason, a funky rock Long Haired Lover from Liverpool and a pyrotechnic Crazy Horses, so that can’t be all bad. From the Andy back catalogue, it was great to hear Jimmy do a fantastic rendition of Happy Heart, and there wasn’t a dry eye in the house after his Danny Boy. But Charlie’s Music to Watch Girls By was pretty darn sensational.
This is a high quality, nostalgic, entertaining and thoroughly enjoyable wallow in some great old music and a fitting tribute to one of popular music’s most outstanding interpreters by one of entertainment’s greatest showmen. What’s not to love?! The tour continues throughout the whole of October – enjoyment guaranteed!