‘Grease’ girl

Although Olivia Newton-John earned her stripes well before starring in 1978’s Grease and released her debut album an entire decade before 1981’s Physical, odds are that when you think of the Australian pop star, you think of one of two things: black hot pants or a leotard.

Despite those benchmarks, she has performed nonstop for nearly 50 years.

“I’m not sure I planned on being in show business. I was just very fortunate that things worked out,” Newton-John said. “I have been so blessed to do so many different things.”

In addition to being a Grammy- and Emmy-winning singer and songwriter, she’s also a beloved actress, most notably in Grease, Xanadu and, more recently, a 2010 episode of Glee, in which she re-created her iconic “Physical” video with Jane Lynch.

Newton-John tours infrequently, but appears Friday at WinStar World Casino. Although she suffered from stage fright early in her career, she feels right at home on the road today.

“I really don’t have to psych myself up too much for this tour, because I have the greatest band,” she said. “The fact that I get to sing songs that so many people love really makes it even more special. It is wonderful to hear from audiences how the music has touched their lives in some way.”

In recent years, her career and causes have intertwined. Her 1994 album, Gaia: One Woman’s Journey, chronicled her battle with breast cancer. In the years since her recovery, she opened the Olivia Newton-John Cancer and Wellness Centre in her hometown of Melbourne, as well as the Gaia Retreat and Spa in Byron Bay.

“When I was diagnosed … no one really talked about it,” Newton-John said. “It was still ‘the big C.’ I realized that I could help bring awareness to make someone else’s experience a little easier or less lonely.”

While her songs have changed direction as of late, the Glee appearance and a forthcoming Christmas duet with her Grease co-star,
John Travolta, confirms that the singer is enjoying the breadth of the
career she’s built while leaving none of it behind.

“Every time I think I am about to slow down and take some time off, a new opportunity presents itself that sounds like fun,” Newton-John said. “I guess I am lucky that after more than 40 years in the business, I can focus on just doing the fun things.”


Becky Carman

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