SALT LAKE CITY — Jay Osmond, of the original Osmond Brothers, is writing a musical play about being an Osmond.
The middle man in the seven-sibling Osmond entertainment lineup — Alan, Wayne and Merrill are older, Donny, Marie and Jimmy are younger — decided that, at 64, it’s time to tell his story through the long lens of perspective.
He wanted the Deseret News to be the first to know. Jay had my cell number after I did a three-part series about the Osmonds in 2018. So he texted me; said he had a scoop.
“It will be part ‘Bohemian Rhapsody,’ part ‘Jersey Boys,’” said Jay. “Without the swearing of course.”
The working title: “He’s My Brother.”
The thought to do this started percolating in Jay’s head two years ago. To get it kick-started, he and his wife, Karen, moved to Chester, England, a town just south of Liverpool, to collaborate with a group of English scriptwriters and to be closer to the Swedish production company that has signed on to produce the play.
The plan is for “He’s My Brother” to open sometime in the latter part of 2020 in London’s West End. After that, if all things go as projected, it will come to America.
Interest in the Osmonds in the U.K. has remained strong through the decades. “Stronger than America, for some reason,” said Jay.
Jay was a consultant and executive producer on two movies made by ABC about the Osmonds, “Side by Side” in 1982 and “Inside the Osmonds” in 2001. While telling the basics of the Osmond story, they were also “sugarcoated a little bit,” he said. “I wanted to tell the true unvarnished story of how it really was growing up, the obstacles we faced, and how we stayed together through the journey of our show business life.”
In almost every way imaginable in the entertainment world, the Osmonds were different — a clean-living, clean-talking, clean-performing bunch that didn’t drink, do drugs, curse or complain, all while singing rock 'n' roll and praising the Lord.
“Some of the obstacles and opposition we faced within the industry itself, and some of the ways we were disciplined as a militaristic kind of family,” took a heavy toll, said Jay. “Our dad was an Army sergeant, so we were raised as soldiers basically. The attitude was all for one and one for all, where we had each other’s backs. We were one unit and each of us had a role to play within that unit, which gave us purpose at a young age.
“We grew up with a lot of pressure to be perfect, and to recognize we were being watched. We were different, and our father made sure we knew it, and that it was OK. We had a mission to perform, and that was to lift families and to bring people to Christ.”
The play will include the disparate cast of famous characters who helped the Osmonds become the Osmonds, including Walt Disney, Andy Williams, Elvis Presley and Jerry Lewis. Even Chuck Norris, who trained the Osmonds in karate to toughen up their dance moves, gets a shoutout.
“The story as it's been told before has been too sugary,” said Jay. “I wanted to tell the story of how hard it was and how wonderful the journey was.”
All accompanied by the Osmond music that has sold 100 million records.
Writing the play hasn’t been any easier than being an Osmond. “We’re on our 10th script right now,” Jay said. “And we’re still not finished.”
None of his siblings are involved in the project, nor will any of them be part of the production.
“This thing would never get off the ground if everyone was involved because each have their own opinion,” said Jay. “This comes from my perception as the middle child of this family.”
Jay will narrate the play but will not act or sing. Someone else will play his part. Auditions for singers, he said, should begin by the end of the year.
“It’s been therapeutic to do this,” he said. “Thinking back on what really made us different and what kept us together, it gives me an appreciation for what we went through, and why.”