Alex Lodge plays Jay Osmond in The UK & Ireland Tour of The Osmonds: A New Musical, which tells the true story of the five brothers from Utah who were pushed into the spotlight as children, and went on to create smash hits, decade after decade.
From their star residency on The Andy Williams Show, to pop stars and ‘Osmondmania’, to the arrival of The Donny & Marie Show, The Osmonds have lived a remarkable life.
Alex Lodge grew up in a small market town just outside of Grimsby in Lincolnshire, “My family don’t really have any theatrical blood in them as such,” says Alex, “my mum and my sister are both teachers. But I was always a kind of extroverted introvert as a child, and the way I think they dealt with that was to send me to Stagecoach, and my love of theatre developed from there.”
“I was one of the first generation of musical theatre kids that had YouTube as a reference point, to be able look up all these amazing stars from America, and it seemed so inaccessible at the time, when you’re in a little two-bed house just outside of Grimsby.”
Alex would go on to study at ArtsEd, and has enjoyed career success ever since, “I’ll always try and say yes to jobs,” says Alex, “I feel like I’ve always been quite lucky, really, to just have people take a chance on me, and some of the best jobs I’ve ever done have been in rooms above pubs.”
Whether it be those pub venues, tours, or West End shows, Alex is no stranger to the industry, but for him The Osmonds is different, “There’s something about being with a piece from the first reading, and first workshop, all the way through to opening night, and seeing what a wonderful reaction the show gets.”
Alex explains that it’s common for actors involved in the initial workshops not to go on to actually play the role, usually because of schedule clashes. “I’ve never been so proud of a project as I have with this, because I’ve been there since we read the very first draft of the script out loud, to now, seeing it get the reaction it’s getting across the country. The enormity of that opportunity is not wasted on me, I feel like I’m having a once-in-a-career experience right now, and just enjoying every second of the ride that comes along with that.”
“The show, in essence, charts the rise and fall, and subsequent rise again, of The Osmonds through the entertainment industry.” Says Alex, “From when they were kids, right through until their 50th anniversary concert.”
Audiences may be surprised by what the show covers, according to Alex, “The Osmond’s public image has been so well stage-managed by the family for 50 years, this is maybe the first time we’re getting a look at the story behind the smiles, behind this image that they always put out there of this perfect, wonderful family.”
The Osmond’s story has been written by Jay Osmond, the role Alex now takes on “Jay always considers himself the one at the back, the one that no one remembers, so it’s interesting now, especially as an actor, to be approaching that, being the narrator and telling the story through Jay’s eyes of the highs and lows of his family, what they went through, the amazing success to the devastating blows that they had along the way, for Jay especially, it’s almost acting as a living memoir.”
Having been involved with the production from day one, Alex has formed a close bond to the real-life man he portrays on stage every night, “Jay has always been so supportive of me, and answered any questions that I’ve had. It’s very brave and very generous of him, because I’m playing a character in the show; to him, this is literally his life playing out in front of him every single day, with aspects of that which I’m sure are not very nice for him to watch and relive at times.”
Jay has been present at many of the performances on the tour so far, “we stopped trying to hide the fact that he was there,” laughs Alex, “people found out anyway, and when he returns to his seat after the interval, he regularly gets a two-minute standing ovation, that’s not bad for the man who always considered himself to be at the back. But he deserves it, they are so kind and humble as people, yet they have been a part of pop culture for 50 years.”
Alex confesses that he’s become a big fan of The Osmonds, and has amassed huge knowledge about their lives and careers, “did you know Wayne got his pilot’s license before he got his driver’s license? So he could fly planes before he could drive cars. Why do I know that? I don’t know!”
Part of Alex’s now encyclopedic knowledge comes from watching documentaries and reading books, but he believes it’s the long chats with Jay that’s helped him really understand the family, “he’s become a friend now, we look forward to going out for dinner, and when I got engaged, him and his wife Karen sent me a lovely message, and brought us some taffy over from Wyoming.”
Alex is enjoying touring with his fellow cast-mates, “we’re like a band of teenage brothers, we are all in our twenties, but we’ve got the maturity of 13-year-olds at times! I remember a moment in the auditions when this lineup was put together for the first time, and the room changed; everyone felt it, and from that point on I’ve never experienced a bond with the other people I’m on stage with like I do with these boys.”
There’s a big laugh from Alex when we start to talk about costumes, “oh we are serving you some looks, the seventies were an interesting time weren’t they? Those jumpsuits are not forgiving at all, actually, here’s another Osmonds fact, the famous white jumpsuits were a gift from Elvis, he thought they would help them ‘macho up’ their act!”
For Alex this is more than just a job, he feels a weight of responsibility too, because more than anything he wants to represent Jay Osmond and his family well, “they are such grounded, kind, patient people, and I genuinely hope I get that across in my performance. I love this show so much, I would be happy playing Jay Osmond for many years to come.”
The Osmonds: A New Musical, starring Alex Lodge as Jay Osmond, is currently touring the UK. Full tour listings and ticket information can be found here.