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NEW AGE
OLIVIA NEWTON-JOHN ENJOYS SINGING IN POST-'GREASE' ERA

PREVIEW

WHO: Olivia Newton-John with the BPO

WHEN: 8 p.m. Saturday

WHERE: Kleinhans Music Hall

TICKETS: $30 to $64

INFO: 885-5000

Olivia Newton-John, the pop songstress appearing with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra on Saturday, earned her fame decades ago for her infectious crooning.

Teenage girls have been known to dance and sing to her hits from the "Grease" soundtrack from their bedrooms. Now, 30 years since the bubbly and sincerely sweet singer hit the chart with songs such as "I Honestly Love You," Newton-John will perform in Kleinhans Music Hall.

She'll mix her old songs with jazzier torch versions during a one-night performance at 8 p.m. Saturday. The experience, she expects, will be a pleasure.

From California, where the native Australian now lives, she explained by phone that touring and singing with full orchestra backup makes the old songs feel like something new.

"It's very rich," she said. "It gives it a different feeling."

At 56, she feels lucky that her singing career still thrives. "I'm not dictated to what is current," she said. "I just sing what I want to sing. I think in that I am very fortunate."

Saturday's show will include her hits from the 1970s and 1980s and newer songs from her Australian-released album "Indigo." Released this year, it is a tribute to the women singers who inspired her to sing for a living.

She'll include "Anyone Who Had a Heart," the song that helped her, at 15, win a talent-show prize of a trip to England that launched her career. Eventually that led to her big career break: starring as John Travolta's high school love interest in 1978's "Grease."

She still thinks fondly of Travolta for his generosity. In one scene, Travolta insisted on stopping the cameras so Newton-John could have another go at a better close-up.

"He was a lovely man," she said. "He was a very giving person."

Now, after movies, records, four Grammys and a successful fight against breast cancer, Newton-John is paying tribute to singers who have inspired her. In "Indigo," she does her own versions of songs made famous by artists from Julie London and Joan Baez to Nina Simone and Doris Day.

She learned the same lesson from listening to the distinctive styles of each: "You need to be an individual," Newton-John said.

She is working to celebrate her own individuality.

"I'm enjoying this part of my life," she said. "I'm not as nervous as I was. I think I'm really getting to know myself, and it's a good feeling. I think I'm very lucky in that I'm still working."

Ticket prices range from $30 to $64. Call 885-5000.

e-mail: mkearns@buffnews.com

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