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Marie Osmond Takes a Role That’s ‘Music’ to Her Ears : Theater: The country singer adds show tunes to her repertoire, playing Maria in the classic Rodgers and Hammerstein musical that arrives Tuesday at the Pantages.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Marie Osmond has always been a little bit country. Now she’s a little bit Rodgers and Hammerstein.

Osmond, who starred with brother Donny in ABC-TV’s kitschy ‘70s musical-variety series “Donny and Marie,” has been touring the country in “The Sound of Music” since November. The classic Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein musical about the Von Trapp Family Singers arrives Tuesday at Hollywood’s Pantages Theatre for a two-week engagement, directed by Oscar’s son James.

The 34-year-old Osmond stars as the perky novice-turned-governess Maria who wins the hearts of the motherless Von Trapp children and the hand of their father, Captain Von Trapp (Laurence Guittard). Mary Martin originated the role of Maria on Broadway in 1959; Julie Andrews starred in the 1965 Oscar-winning film version.

“Sound of Music” has become a family affair for Osmond. The eldest of her four children, 10-year-old Stephen, plays Kurt Von Trapp. “He asked to audition,” Osmond says firmly. “They wanted him. He got it because he earned it.”

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Osmond has just signed on to continue the tour for another eight months. “I think I’m crazy,” Osmond says, laughing. “But the producers of ‘Sound of Music’ are really the best to work for. They take great care of you and make life on the road pleasant. So it has been a wonderful experience.”

Dressed in black jeans and a black jacket, the devout Mormon is holding court in her penthouse suite at the Sheraton Universal. Two publicists for the musical and Osmond’s manager observe the proceedings. Osmond is friendly, direct and interview savvy, as well she should be after 31 years in show business.

Osmond made her TV debut at age 3 on Andy Williams’ NBC variety series. Her older brothers were recurring regulars on his show. She scored her first country hit, “Paper Roses,” at 13, and still has a thriving country music career. Before “Sound of Music,” Osmond performed approximately 250 concerts a year. Her latest single, “What Kind of Man Walks on a Woman,” is due for release later this month. Osmond also has her own line of fine, porcelain collector dolls, which are distributed on the QVC shopping channel and at the Disney theme parks, and she’s co-founder of the successful annual telethon, the Children’s Miracle Network.

Osmond’s children and second husband, music producer Brian Blosil, are accompanying her on this tour. “Everything we want in life is not easy,” she says of juggling career and family. “The good part about it is that I work at night. It’s not like I am gone all day from my children. It’s a wonderful experience for them.”

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Trying to fit “Sound of Music” into her schedule was difficult for Osmond because she was booked to do concerts nearly a year in advance. “The producers actually approached me on this and asked me as I was finishing up a big Christmas tour in ’92. We didn’t work it out until November of ’93,” she says.

Performing such Rodgers and Hammerstein tunes as “The Sound of Music” and “My Favorite Things,” she acknowledges, is vastly different than singing country. “The head tones, the round sounds. . . . You can’t phrase too much. When we started, I said, ‘I don’t want to step into it as Marie Osmond.’ If you sing Rodgers and Hammerstein, you really have to do it justice. It is this whole different stylization. I worked with some people on it. It has been really interesting to find another voice.”

Osmond doesn’t see any similarities between her performing family and the Von Trapps.

“They were actually dysfunctional,” she says of the Von Trapps. “The Captain never spoke to them. His wife had died. He made them march. Maria brought a purpose back in all of their lives. I’d say there are similarities between Maria’s and my character in a sense that I’m a very positive person. I don’t think you are born that way. I think you choose to be that way. We are all dished out the same amount of garbage. One of my favorite sayings is: ‘Tragedy plus timing equals humor, so you might as well laugh.’ ”

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When asked whether she had a normal childhood, Osmond says she honestly can’t answer the question.

“I don’t have anything to compare it to. Was my life like my other friends’? No. But we did have the same kind of challenges. Sometimes, I think mine were on an even grander scale. Did it affect me as much as it did them? Probably. I had to grow up on national TV.”

These days, she laughs off her squeaky-clean image. “People perceive Marie Osmond as naive, a goody-goody,” she acknowledges. “‘They have the teeth jokes. That’s all fine, but if they believe I’m naive, they are very naive. You cannot grow up in this business and see the things I have seen. I have seen everything. I sat and watched friends of mine, and I could tell you names of people you would know that threw their lives and careers away because of excessive behavior. I had a great family. I didn’t get caught up in that. Not that we don’t all have pressures--you learn to deal with them. I’m still here and I’m still young.”


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