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Olivia Newton-John: Sandy's all grown up

Published November 7, 2012 3:38 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

After a long week of Hurricane Sandy, you're probably ready to think about a Sandy that's a little, well, sunnier.

For instance: Sandy from "Grease."

Olivia Newton-John sounds exactly as you remember her from the movies. Though she's now a 64-year-old married mother, her voice still has that Australian, girlish lilt to it, like she's delighted just to be speaking. If you ever need to gently break bad news to someone, Newton-John would be the perfect messenger.

The Grammy winner, breast cancer survivor and iconic fake teenager (she was in her late 20s when she played wide-eyed high school senior Sandy Olsen) will be on a national tour through February 2013.

"It's really a journey through my music," Newton-John said before the tour, which opened Thursday in Tennessee. "I go through the music from way back, when I started with country. I go through 'Grease' and 'Xanadu' and other successful records I've had."

Don't expect wacky "Xanadu"-style sets and dancing. "It's my music and me," she said. "There's no special effects. There's no gimmicks."

Technically speaking, this is not entirely in keeping with her track record, or at least, with her videos, some of which relied on gimmicks — most notably the video for "Physical," which attempted to cool the racy innuendo from the song by using a gym as the setting.

Newton-John claimed the fitness theme was her idea, the result of her panic about the song being too sexual. "I tried to get them to pull that one," she said, but "it was too late. It had gone to radio. It was already shooting up the charts."

She pitched the idea of making a video about exercise in the hopes that new context would change people's perception of the song. "And that only made it bigger," she said.

When she revisited the song and video for her "Glee" cameo in 2010, "they copied the set exactly," she said. "It was really a giggle."

Next up in the nostalgia department for Newton-John is her Christmas album with "Grease" co-star John Travolta. The album, "This Christmas," is all holiday standards save for one song, "I Think You Might Like It," which is being billed as a sequel to "You're the One That I Want," as both songs were written by John Farrar.

As for her concerts, she promises there won't be any new orchestrations of her hits: no remixing "Hopelessly Devoted to You," no dubstep take on "I Honestly Love You." (Although come to think of it, that's not the worst idea in the world.) The classics she sings will be the classics you know.

"I always remember, when I was a young girl going to see one of my favorite artists, and she changed the songs and I was really disappointed," Newton-John said. "So I always remember that from a fan's point of view, people want to hear it the way they heard it."