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Marie Osmond brings holiday music to Heinz Hall

Marie Osmond has worked every year of her life since she was 3. So, it makes sense that six decades later, she would be scheduled to do a concert just a handful of days before Christmas.

Osmond, 63, is performing a Christmas concert Tuesday night at Heinz Hall in Downtown Pittsburgh. “A Marie Osmond Symphonic Christmas” includes the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and features songs off her most recent album, “Unexpected,” which was released last Christmas.

Osmond’s debut single at age 12 — “Paper Roses” — went to No. 1 on the Billboard Country chart and made her a star.

During the 1970s, Osmond’s appearances with her brother, Donny Osmond, on the iconic “Donny and Marie” variety show were must viewing for youngsters in the U.S. and many other parts of the world.

In addition to her musical achievements, Osmond has written three New York Times bestselling books. Her work as a philanthropist includes co-founding Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, which has raised more than $8 billion to date. Osmond was recently awarded “The Secretary of Defense Medal for Outstanding Public Service.”

In a recent phone interview with the Tribune-
Review, Osmond discussed her upcoming visit to Pittsburgh, her successes, her upbringing, the pressures of show business, her “remarkable” life journey and being a Steelers fan. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

What can people coming to see your show at Heinz Hall on Tuesday look forward to?

“I will do everything from “Paper Roses” to Puccini for Christmas. I’m going to be with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. So, when you have 30 to 60 musicians onstage with you, plus my band, you’re going to have a musical feast. I could have easily brought in my synthesized show, my regular band and things, but not for Christmas. You will laugh, you will cry, it’s a fun time and you will leave there with the holiday spirit, I promise you. The reason I’m doing this show is to remember happier times, to have people come out and be with people they love and to create some memories. This world, the anxieties and depression that have been created are monumental, and I know that from being one of the founders of Children’s Miracle Network. The anxiety levels in these children are just off the roof.”

It wasn’t long after “Paper Roses” became a hit that the “Donny and Marie” show was popular. I remember watching it as a kid.

“Well, it was kind of interesting. I did “Paper Roses,” and I was having success in country (music), and Donny was doing stuff with the (Osmond) brothers. And then Donny started to lose his voice and I would step in and sing his high parts on the records. A lot of people don’t know that. So, it was like ‘hey, you guys sound great together. Let’s do a Donny and Marie album.’ And it was from that album that (the TV show) “Donny and Marie” happened.

With all of this early success that you had, as a young lady, what kinds of challenges and pressures did that create for you at a young age and how did the sacrifices you made as a child affect you later in life?

“I don’t think anybody realized how big (‘Donny and Marie’) was. I didn’t know it at the time, but it was dubbed into 17 languages worldwide. Were there ramifications? Of course there were, and I’ve talked about some of them in my book ‘Behind the Smile.’ There was a lot of pressure. The one thing that I did have that I believe saved me is I had great parents. My mom and dad worked so hard to help us have as normal a life as possible. Were we normal? Absolutely not. I mean I was kind of the Taylor Swift of my generation, and I worked really hard. We had to memorize 350 pages of script in two-and-a-half days and, people didn’t know it at the time, but I was dyslexic. So, everything was twice as hard for me to learn. And I don’t read music. Everything I do is by ear because of my dyslexia.

But just to give you an idea of who my mother was, I came home one night after putting in a 16-hour day. And I said ‘Mom, we’re taping in the morning, so I’m going to go to bed. I have to look good.’ And she looked at me and said ‘but you haven’t done your chores.’ And I looked at her as this 17-year-old stupid girl and I said ‘Mother, I’m Marie Osmond.’ And she goes ‘Oh really? Well, that’s a job. This is reality. Get to work. You have dishes to do and laundry to do and if you give me any more lip, I‘ll have you clean toilets for the rest of the night.’ What a brilliant mother … to help me understand the difference between reality and work. We don’t define ourselves by work. Yes, we love to be successful and to do things well. But the reality is you come home every night and that’s life. Because of those lessons I learned at 17, my greatest success are my eight children and my eight grandchildren. And I told them, ‘someday when I’m gone, you are my legacy.’ ”

You have had to deal with tremendous challenges in your life. What is important for people to know about that?

“I was the first celebrity to really come out and talk about severe postpartum depression, to bring it to light because people just used to think ‘just give them an anti-depressant, whatever.’ They just kind of shoved it aside. And in my case, I was sexually abused as a child and didn’t ever tell anybody. I learned as a very young girl that it was safer for me to be onstage than backstage. And I wrote about some of those things. I put statistics out there to help people understand why people go through different things. I do speak on it periodically.”

It sounds like you’re in a good place now?

“I really am. I don’t believe in shoving things in the dark corners of our minds because I think it manifests physically in illness. That’s why this show is so important to me. Do I have to get out and perform all the time to be happy? No. I really do love people. Obviously, in the things I have put my time and energy into, I love helping children. I love helping people. And I love music. It has been an unexpected gift to me that my fans have followed me from all these many years, and they are the ones who have allowed me to keep growing and changing.”

How is Donny doing?

“He’s great. He’s going to end up being like Wayne Newton; he’s going to die in Vegas. And he loves it. That’s what he loves to do. I like doing other kinds of things. Eleven years was good for me. I remarried my first husband (Steve Craig), and I have eight beautiful grandchildren, so I like a little more balance. I love touring, I love people. I love being home.”

I’ve heard that you are a Steelers fan and have been since you were a teenager. How did that happen?

“One of my dear friends who came to Vegas. I got to know her. I was 10, she was 11. She was my best buddy. She and her family are big Steelers fans, and I would go to Pittsburgh and visit her family and go to the games with them. You know, incognito.”

Do you have a Terrible Towel?

“Of course I do. I think because I was so young when I got into it, they’ve just become one of my favorite teams. Go Steelers!”


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