Monday, June 27, 2016

Jimmy Osmond: “I love Swansea"

This was a fun interview I did with Mark Rees and the South Wales Evening Post - I thought I'd share it with you here...

Andy Williams and Jimmy Osmond

“I love Swansea – that’s why I keep coming back!”

Jimmy Osmond, our most beloved panto star in recent memory, has spent so much time in Swansea that he's practically a local. He talks to MARK REES about MasterChef, Andy Williams, and his love for the city.

Jimmy Osmond really does love Swansea. And the feeling from the locals is, it would seem, mutual.

In fact, he spends so much time here that some have joked that maybe he should invest in a flat in the area ready for his next visit.

"I love Swansea – that's why I keep coming back," he tells me ahead of his return to the city in September.

"I've got lots of friends there now, like Kev Johns, plus my family are from Wales originally, which is cool.

"When you take up residence somewhere you get to know all the hot spots, and I know Swansea well – I know where Nando's is!" he laughs.

Rarely does a leading panto star get such a warm reception in their adopted home for the Christmas period – and rarely are they invited back so quickly for a second round.

Jimmy wowed audiences as the title star in Swansea Grand Theatre's 3D-effects laden production of Aladdin in 2011, and again in 2013 as the villainous Captain Hook, which he tells me was his finest moment in panto.

"That was my favourite panto ever, playing Captain Hook," he says, explaining that it's not just about the role, but about a special magic shared between his co-stars, the audience, and those behind the scenes.

"It's all about the whole panto, the whole team, everyone involved."

But for his next visit, he won't be donning a wig and a hook or swinging from the rafters. It will be a much classier affair, in memory of his dear friend Andy Williams, the tribute show Moon River and Me.

"I started this show before Andy passed away, we were neighbours, and it goes way back," he says of his long-standing relationship with the legendary American entertainer.

Andy was a regular in the top ten in the 1960s and 1970s with hits including Can't Get Used to Losing You, In the Arms of Love, Happy Heart, and (Where Do I Begin) Love Story, and Jimmy credits the singer with launching his career, and that of his brothers in The Osmonds.

"He was a pioneer of variety television, and our legacy grew out of that," says Jimmy.

"He was always classy, and he's the guy we credit for making it all happen.

"I was first on his show when was three, and my brothers were resident on his show. They sang on some of his songs, and as such there are songs that I have a special connection with."

In fact, so close was their friendship that Andy entrusted Jimmy with looking after his pride and joy: his own theatre.

"Before he died, he asked me to buy his theatre, to keep it alive," he says.

"Andy was very careful, he owned all of his music, and I was so blown away that his family would allow me to do this, and to have all the Emmy awards and things in the theatre.

"His kids have been really great, and people still come from all over the world to visit the theatre. He also gave me his old footage, and we use visuals at the back of the show to take you back to the old Hollywood days."

As such, Jimmy's show is the only official Williams-family endorsed tribute show you'll see.

"I started in the theatre and it went well, and then on to LA and now I'll be doing it in Israel, Japan – and Swansea! But people don't come along because its Jimmy Osmond, they come along because of Andy's music.

"I don't ever pretend to sound like him, I'm just me. But while anyone can sing Andy Williams's songs, I have this connectivity. But a good song is a good song, whoever does an interpretation of it, and that sixties vibe is back with the younger generation now, like Pixie Lott covering Moon River.

"It's the greatest hits, and some of my favourites, and you can hear some funny stories. In one section, people can call out what they want to hear, and it could be Danny Boy or it could be Long Haired Lover from Liverpool."

And of course, we'll be hearing the Welsh football anthem Can't Take My Eyes Off You, with its "I love you baby" chorus.

"That was one of my favourite songs growing up," says Jimmy.

"One of the classics, one of the top songs."

But before all that, we'll be seeing another side of Jimmy – Jimmy the chef on the BBC's Celebrity MasterChef.

"It's going to be funny," he says ahead of his first episode airing.

"I don't think I embarrass myself, and I'm loving the challenge of it. I'll try anything, I've never been afraid of trying things, like in the jungle," he says of his time in I'm a Celebrity...Get Me Out of Here!

"I love to cook for the family, but it's usually hamburgers, the normal food that we eat. I love fish, all kinds of dishes, and sweet stuff has always been my nemesis.

"The people I'm in the show with are fantastic, I've made some amazing friendships and funny memories. But it's dramatic, I've made lots of mistakes and learned so much, and it's definitely intense."

He also notes that being a celebrity doesn't save you from getting shouted at by an irate chef.

"If you're a fool you're a fool, and they'll let you know it!" he says with a chuckle.

"I'm used to criticism, and this sounds quite lame, but it was quite emotional. With people yelling at you, it's intense, like in the jungle. And what comes across as a lovely day on TV was actually exhausting."

And after the cooking and Andy Williams shows are all wrapped up, the one big question on everyone's lips in this part of the world for Jimmy has to be: are we going to be seeing him in panto again anytime soon?

"I don't know, but I'd love to," he admits.

"Next year I hope, I don't want it to go too long, there are more characters that I want to play.
"I just love panto, and Swansea is very special."

Jimmy Osmond in the only official Andy Williams tribute show Moon River and Me will be at Swansea Grand Theatre September 30, 7.30pm.

Original posting of article


  1. Great interview! Thanks for sharing!

  2. Great interview Jimmy,and yes all of us here in Swansea love having you here to,can't wait for September.see you in nandos lol

  3. How weird Jimmy..Hubby & I have just come back from a week in the Swansea area, & we love it too, we are seriously considering relocating from the South East, though I would miss my 3 kids so much. Seeing your blog this morning 'I Love Swansea'..Is this a sign??! Lol... Great interview & LOVED you as Cpt. Hook! Can't wait for your turn in CMC..& I didn't realize you liked fish? You didn't seem that keen in CDWM! xx