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Dallas, Meyerson Symphony

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From Fort Worth Star Telegram, Sept 2

Still The One We Want To Hear

By Punch Shaw

Dallas - Anyone who has ever been mellow, believed in Magic, honestly loved someone or longed to escape to his or her Xanadu (or all of the above) had the chance to pay homage to a patron saint  this Labor Day weekend at the Morton H Meyerson Symphony Center, where soft-rock queen Olivia Newton-John joined the Dallas Symphony Orchestra for a series of three performances that will conclude today.

The 53 year old Australian chanteuse eased her way through a generous 70 minute set of her biggest hits - Xanadu, Magic, If You Love Me, You're The One That I Want - and just a couple of surprises with the help of her six piece band and two backup singers.

The Dallas Symphony Orchestra was also present, but it simply had good seats for the show. The orchestra did not play at all on many of the tunes and added only a little badly needed heft to a few of Newton-John's lighter than air hits.

Neither the calendar nor a victory over breast cancer seem to have taken much of a toll on Newton-John's voice or appearance. Looking more elegant than cute in a sparkling, champagne-colored, full length gown, the veteran star (she began recording songs 30 years ago) still has most of her notes. The only weakness seemed to be an occasional thinness in the higher registers, which is not surprising considering she has never been known for having robust pipes anyway. The sweet smoothness of her delivery, however, was as much in evidence as ever in the Friday performance seen for this review.

The high points of the show came in a brace of songs from the film Grease for which the singer and her band donned black leather jackets, and included an especially good version of You're The One That I Want. The biggest surprise came late in the set when Newton-John, after a quick costume change into another gown and cape of many colors took the audience's breath away with a gorgeous rendition of Don't Cry For Me Argentina from the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical Evita.

Before Newton-John and her band were given the second half of the concert, the Dallas Symphony, under the baton of principal Pops conductor Richard Kaufman (who was not on the podium for the second half) offered a couple of debuts in its opening portion of the program. In addition to dashing off a few light classics, including a highly caffeinated take on Dvorak's Slavonic Dance no 7, the orchestra performed the world premiere of an arrangement of tunes from Mel Brooks' Broadway smash, The Producers.

It was impressive (the suite, prepared by arranger Ted Ricketts, was approved by Brooks only last week), but the music did not mean much to a crowd that does not really know the show yet. Kaufman noted that tickets to The Producers are available for December - of 2003.

The other debut was a bit less awe-inspiring. As fun as it was to hear the Dallas Symphony carry the honor of performing the concert orchestra debut of the theme from the I Love Lucy TV show was a bit like watching the New York Yankees play slow-pitch football. But despite this and several other examples of highly trained talent wasted, it was an entertaining evening of helium-like music.

With thanks to John Ingram

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last updated January 13, 2003