Bert on doctor’s orders
SHOWBIZ stalwart Bert Newton is in Queensland for his first foray back to work since his much-publicised health battle.
Newton, who recently turned 75, underwent a life-saving, six-hour quadruple heart bypass operation late last year.
‘‘And there was a fair bit of rehab to be done, including a couple of words that crept into my vocabulary that hadn’t been there before – exercise and diet,’’ he says.
Newton paid attention and recovered. Fighting fit, he’s now playing Vince Fontaine in a new production of the stage musical Grease, which opened in Brisbane this week.
Newton says his decision to take the role was based on medical advice from his family doctor.
‘‘I told him about Grease and what I was doing,’’ he says. ‘‘His last piece of advice, and after 30 years he knows me pretty well, was: ‘The best thing for you to do would be to get back to work’.
‘‘The question I get asked more than any other is that around the ‘R’ word: retirement. The only time I would consider that was if I lost the passion . . . and I haven’t lost the passion.’’
Newton’s castmates include Rob Mills as Danny and newcomer Gretel Scarlett as Sandy, along with Todd McKenney, Anthony Callea, Lucy Maunder and TV veteran Val Lehman.
Mills, 31, rose to fame after appearing as a contestant on the first season of Australian Idol 2003. In recent years, he established himself in musical theatre, in Wicked and then Legally Blonde. Grease is a major gig for the singer and actor. ‘‘There are some really cool contemporary pieces and ever since then, I’ve put myself forward,’’ he says. ‘‘Singing and performing I have always done and I love it.’’
Reserved for only the biggest of productions, the Grease cast has recorded a live album, bringing to life hits including Summer Nights, Hopelessly Devoted To You and You’re The One That I Want.
Grease plays the Lyric Theatre, at QPAC, in Brisbane.
Bert Newton in during rehearsals for Grease, which opened its national run in Brisbane.