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Olivia Newton-John is living the life that she wants

| Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2012, 9:00 p.m.
Olivia Newton-John (Michelle Day)
Olivia Newton-John (Michelle Day)

A hit is a hit, but while some entertainers make their fame with one style, others are stars in a variety of genres.

In 1978, Olivia Newton-John became an iconic figure from her starring role as Sandy in “Grease,” opposite John Travolta. But she was a country music star before her most-famous film, had many hit records after it, and has brought her celebrity to bear in the service of humanitarian causes.

Newton-John will sing some of her hits when she performs with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra on Saturday at Heinz Hall, Downtown.

Expect such favorites as “Please Mr. Please,” “Let Me Be There,” “You're The One That I Want,” “Magic” and “Suddenly.”

“I'm lucky enough to have a bunch of hits from my whole career, not necessarily from my country time but also ‘Xanadu' and ‘Grease' and the songs in between that I care about. It's a fun show,” she says.

Newton-John is nearing the end of a 35-concert tour, which began in September. All are with her seven-person band, which also performs with her at symphony concerts.

She also released a new album, “This Christmas” on Universal, with John Travolta, with whom she's remained friends since “Grease.”

Proceeds will benefit the Olivia Newton-John Cancer and Wellness Center in Melbourne, Australia, and the Jett Travolta Foundation, named after Travolta's son, who died in 2009.

The CD includes Christmas standards, plus a new song by John Farrar, who wrote many of her hits.

Among the guest artists on the album are Barbra Streisand, James Taylor, Chick Corea and the Count Basie Orchestra.

Newton-John became an advocate for breast-cancer research and early detection of the disease after she was diagnosed with it in 1992. She's also advocated for children's health after a friend of her daughter, Chloe, died of a rare childhood cancer.

The singer and actress has been involved in animal rights her entire life, and is dismayed by the slaughter of dolphins.

On the road touring, she's had time to catch up on reading and is currently enjoying a book about her grandfather, the Nobel Prize-winning nuclear physicist Max Born — “The End of the Certain World” by Nancy Greenspan.

More than 30 years after “Grease,” the singer is happily giving concerts, making records, serving the causes in which she believes and enjoying her family.

“My life is the best it's ever been,” she says. “I'm so happy.”

Mark Kanny is classical music critic for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7877 or

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