Jimmy still loves performing live

Anyone remembering Jimmy Osmond as the three-year-old new recruit to his all-singing, all-squeaky-clean, all-American family is likely to be surprised to hear him now – all deep and gravelly-voiced.

But the person himself seems to have changed surprisingly little. To use a simple, old-fashioned word, he is nice.

And it's no mean feat to stay grounded after more than 40 years in show business with legions of adoring fans.

Aged just five he scored his first gold record with My little Darling. At nine he achieved the biggest selling solo single in the family with Long Haired Lover From Liverpool. By the time he was 15, 'Little' Jimmy had developed and supervised most of the Osmonds' merchandising business.

As a teenager, he also launched a successful advertising agency while, as part of his family band – the Osmonds, Jimmy sold more than 100 million records worldwide.

In 2004, he hit the UK theatre scene, performing in Boogie Nights in Blackpool. The show broke box office records and spurred him on to a West End debut in Grease in 2009.

Now, Jimmy, who has previously visited Portsmouth for a Christmas show at the Guildhall, will play smooth-talking lawyer Billy Flynn in hit musical Chicago at the Kings, Southsea.

'I have been in musicals before but never one as classy as this,' he says of his new show. 'It's an amazing production and everybody is so proud to be part of it.'

Of his fellow cast and orchestra, he says: 'They are so fit, and the music is amazing.'

Jimmy recalls his 'first real gig' on the Andy Williams shows as a three-year-old singing Red Roses For A Blue Lady, and says he hasn't stopped since.

'I had a hit record in Japan – in Japanese – when I was five, and life has been a whirlwind, a big blur.'

Of life in a family band, Jimmy says: 'I have been so grateful to be part of a family that was close.

'We have had so many wild experiences together, in so many big arenas in the 1970s, it's scary.

'To be able to do it with a support system around me was really lucky. Today you don't have a lot of that.'

Jimmy attributes the Osmond's success part to luck, part to talent and skill and part to marketability. He says: 'We were at just the right time of life – a unique commodity, a family who performed and harmonised together.'

What about his solo successes such as Long-Haired Lover From Liverpool, which made him the youngest ever person to top the singles charts in 1972? 'That was part of the ride,' he says. 'It came out of nowhere. I didn't even know where Liverpool was.'

Jimmy admits that, at the time of that song, he lacked perspective: 'I got to a stage where I took myself too seriously, which we never should.

'I was playing Wembley with my brothers and the whole arena was singing it because they were ticked-off because we weren't doing it.

'I thought then: "It's not about me but being part of people's memories." And we were.

'Now I'm 46 and I'm grateful I was part of a song like that – one that everybody knows whether you like it or not.'

As well as pop and theatre successes, Jimmy has taken part in all manner of TV shows, including I'm a Celebrity..., Celebrity Family Fortunes and Celebrity Come Dine With Me. He is an accomplished cartoonist, has places on the boards of numerous charities at home and abroad, is involved with a number of organisations in his home town of Branson, Missouri, and has his own production company.

But does he get as much satisfaction now as an entertainment-industry entrepreneur as from performing?

'The truth is no. There's nothing like being able to perform live. That inter-reaction with a live audience is something you can't replace.

'Making it happen for other people is exciting but money isn't my motivation.'

Chicago will be at the Kings Theatre, Southsea from Monday, May 25, to Saturday 30. Tickets cost 25 to 32 and are available from (023) 9282 8282 or kings-southsea.com.