Olivia Newton-John on 'Grease,' coming to Minneapolis
Photo by Michelle Day
As the star of Grease, the most successful movie musical in history, Olivia Newton-John captivated audiences as Sandy, the goody two-shoes who turns bad-girl. Thirty-four years later, this four-time Grammy Award winning artist continues make music and star in films, recently showing off her rebellious side in A Few Best Men alongside Rebel Wilson.
Tonight, Newton-John will be at the Guthrie Theater, performing music from her 40-year career along with a few new songs. Dressing Room talked with Newton-John about her time in the industry, thriving after breast cancer, and upcoming projects.
We're so excited to welcome you to Minnesota. Besides your concert, is there anything that you're looking forward to doing here?
I am very excited to come back to Minneapolis. I love the city and the people are so warm and friendly. I haven't performed at the Guthrie, so I am excited to as I have heard that it is a wonderful venue.
Your career has spanned over four decades. What's the most important lesson that you've learned during your time in the industry?
I think the most important lesson I have learned is to be true to yourself as an artist. I have been blessed with some amazing songs and songwriters and producers through the years. When I was in my 'Britney' period, as I call it, I was very nervous about performing live. Today, I enjoy it so much more. I think with age comes the wisdom to just have fun. And I love that I get to do what I love doing and that people still turn up to hear me.
When you were offered the role of Sandy in Grease, did you have any idea how the film would affect your career? What was your favorite part about making that film?
No, not really. Before Grease I already had a very successful career in music with a few Grammys and number-one songs. I was nervous about doing the film as the one film I had done in England before that was a disaster, and I didn't want to risk endangering my music career that was going so well. But after I had a screen test with John [Travolta], I felt the chemistry was there and that it was going to be a good film. Of course, we had no idea as to how big it would be -- even 34 years later. It's such a blessing and definitely took my career to the next level.
My favorite part of making the film is that I made great friends -- John Travolta and Didi Conn are still close friends -- and I never had the chance to go to a school like that in Australia so it was a whole new experience for me.
I read that you kept the leather pants you wore in Grease. Have you kept any other mementos from shows that you've worked on?
I have the pants and the jacket, but I auctioned the red shoes during an AIDS benefit back in the '80s.
What was it like to dance with Gene Kelly in Xanadu?
I was very nervous, as you can imagine, but he was such a lovely man and a great teacher. Dancing with him was a dream come true -- for any girl I bet!
You had breast cancer in 1992, and are 20 years cancer-free. Instead of referring to yourself as a "survivor," you refer to yourself as a "thriver." Why do you choose to use the word thriver?
Survivor to me sounds like it is still lurking somewhere and that it will come back. Thriver is much more about who I am and that it is done and behind me and my life is thriving. In fact, the experience led me to lend my name to the Olivia Newton-John Cancer and Wellness Centre in my hometown of Melbourne, Australia, which I am proud to say finally opened in June 2012 after nearly 10 years of building and fundraising. This will be my legacy and will help thousands of people going through cancer.
What's next for you? Can we expect to see you in another musical anytime soon?
I have a new holiday project that is in the works, but I can't talk much about it right now and of course the concert tour which I am having so much fun doing right now. I am singing all of my hits over the last 40 years and some new ones, too. So I look forward to seeing everyone in Minneapolis.
I also just released a cookbook, LivWise: Easy Recipes for a Healthy, Happy Life. All of the proceeds go to the Olivia Newton-John Cancer and Wellness Centre to support the wellness programs.
IF YOU GO:
7:30 p.m. Monday, September 24
Guthrie Theatre, Wurtele Thrust Stage
818 S. Second St., Minneapolis
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