When they’re not writing hit songs together and separately, Olivia Newton-John, Beth Nielsen Chapman and Amy Sky also know what it’s like to be sisters in survival. Newton-John’s ongoing battles with breast cancer continue to be documented (in tandem with her sister’s premature passing), Nielsen Chapman became a widow way too soon, while Sky lost both her mother and sister.
Given the scope of this particular show, it probably wouldn’t have been appropriate for Olivia Newton-John to bust out the leather jacket from “Grease,” let alone the bodybuilders from the “Physical” video or roller skate alongside “Xanadu,” but she did treat everyone to the beautiful “I Honestly Love You.”
But rather than wallowing in despair, the ladies and two instrumental accompanists united for their empowering acoustic album “Liv On,” which was also the subject of their concert at the McAninch Arts Center’s Belushi Performance Hall on the College Of DuPage campus (whose programming has clearly stepped up its game). “We had this tour planned and I said ‘I’m gonna be well by then’ and here I am,” exclaimed a beaming Newton-John at one point in the 90-minute night, much to the delight of those gathered.
And at 69, she was downright radiant, regularly swapping verses with Nielsen Chapman and Sky, while sticking to the weighty theme that ultimately brought encouragement and inspiration to suffering of any stripe. Even the very titles of “My Heart Goes Out To You” and “I Will Take Care Of You” rang out with empathy and understanding, though none of these women were shy when it came to admitting seasons of sadness throughout “Stone In My Pocket” or “Forever Blue.”
Nonetheless, the emotional ride usually had an upswing, especially Newton-John standouts “Grace & Gratitude” and “Stronger Than Before.” Nielsen Chapman also led a playful version of “This Kiss” (which she co-wrote and wound up going to Faith Hill), plus Sky shared how she always dreamed of setting Maya Angelou’s “Phenomenal Woman” to music and had that wish granted when fortuitously running into the late poet at a TV taping.
Given the scope of this particular show, it probably wouldn’t have been appropriate for Newton-John to bust out the leather jacket from “Grease,” let alone the bodybuilders from the “Physical” video or roller skate alongside “Xanadu,” but she did treat everyone to the beautiful “I Honestly Love You.” All three artists made sure to close with additional messages of strength and resilience, including a medley of covers that shared the word “Happy” in the title (tied around Pharrell Williams’ smash of the same name) and emerged from an encore with a tweaked musical version of the poem “Immortality” to reinforce their sweet harmonies and unbreakable spirits.
Upcoming performance highlights at the McAninch Arts Center At College Of DuPage include the New Philharmonic presents “The Best Of Broadway: Rodgers & Hammerstein and Andrew Lloyd Webber” (Oct. 21 and 22); The New Lionel Hampton Big Band with Jason Marsalis (Nov. 4); “Take Me To The River” featuring William Bell, Charlie Musselwhite and Bobby Rush (Nov. 5); Lidia Bastianich (Nov. 9); Lonestar (Nov. 10); “Broadway’s Next Hit Musical” (Nov. 17); Almost Elton John And The Rocket Band: “A Very Elton Christmas” (Dec. 2); The Second City: “Nut-Cracking Holiday Revue” (Dec. 9); “Presley, Perkins, Lewis & Cash: A Million Dollar Christmas” (Dec. 10); Chris Botti (Jan. 20); “The Best Of The Second City” (Feb. 17) and Cubanismo! featuring Jesus Alemany (Feb. 18). For additional details, visit AtTheMac.org.