Olivia Newton-John brings “Summer Nights” to Shippensburg
By ASHLEY STOUDNOUR
Assistant Copy Editor/The Slate
Olivia Newton-John performed at the H. Ric Luhrs Performing Arts Center Feb. 23 and brought all of the classics with her.
The almost sold-out theater warmly welcomed Newton-John to the stage as she jumped right into her first song, “Pearls On a Chain.” She continued her opening into, “Have You Never Been Mellow.”
During the song, a man from the audience approached the stage to give a white teddy bear to the singer. With a big smile, she took the teddy bear and sang with it, then finally placed it next to her back-up singers where it would stayed for the rest of the show.
After her opening numbers, Newton-John thanked the audience for welcoming her to Shippensburg and gave a quick intro to her next song, “What is Life.”
Slowing the pace, she performed “Sam,” a song written by Newton-John’s producer, songwriter and good friend for his newborn son.
“Well, that was 30 years ago now,” Newton-John joked.
She kept the show moving as she sang crowd-favorite tunes along with some of her own, spending only a few minutes between songs to tell a story or make a quick joke.
Tapping into her soundtrack collection, Newton-John sang a few songs from her 1980 movie “Xanadu.” Starting off with the title track “Xanadu,” she led into her chart-topping single, “Magic” and finished with “Suddenly;” a duet with back-up singer Steve Vasquez, who impressed the crowd with his rich, baritone voice.
Moving from upbeat movie melodies to her strong country roots, Newton-John showcased her best country songs from the decades, including tracks like “If Not For You,” “Let Me Be There,” “Banks of the Ohio,” “Please Mr. Please” and “Take Me Home Country Roads.”
Stepping up the pace, the crowd energetically sang along to the Dolly Parton cover of “Jolene” straight into “If You Love Me,” and burst into cheers and applause at the beginning of Newton-John’s classic hit “Physical.” Within the first few notes, a few women in the audience were on their feet dancing, transported back into the time of neon colors and sweatbands.
“That song was banned on the radio for being too risqué,” Newton-John quipped. “When I listen to the radio now, I just have to laugh.”
The show continued through Newton-John’s diverse discography, flowing from bouncy beats to slow and steady, only to switch to a somber mood when she gave a poignant introduction to her next song, “Not Gonna Give Into It,” which she admitted was her mantra after her battle with breast cancer 20 years ago.
She said it was the “hardest time in her life,” but during that time she wrote the album “Gaia: One Woman’s Journey” about her battle. Another man stood and handed her a flower during the performance to the delight of the audience watching.
Then came the moment everyone was waiting for. Singing the words “Goodbye to Sandra Dee,” a capella, Newton-John jumped into all of the “Grease” classics, beginning with “You’re The One That I Want.”
She sang and danced across the stage, in sync with every iconic move from the film. She then sang “Hopelessly Devoted To You” and led into a crowd sing-a-long to “Summer Nights,” which earned her a standing ovation by the end. The audience continued to sing, dance and clap along to “Summer Nights,” finishing off the “Grease” medley.
After a quick trip offstage, Newton-John returned to sing “Grace and Gratitude,” dedicating it to the audience for supporting her over the years. Ending the evening with her slow, soulful ballad, “I Honestly Love You,” the crowd gave her another standing ovation and applauded her off stage.
With decades full of music, movies and philanthropic work, Newton-John has had a life of wonder, hard work and happiness. Her performance was entertaining and lively; reminiscent of the fresh-faced girl in “Grease” everyone has come to know and love.
Throughout Newton-John’s struggles and her accomplishments in life, she continues to show the world that along with her music and her movies, she is as timeless as can be.