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Debby Boone will light up the Keswick

Probably best known for her 1977 hit You Light Up My Life, which led to her winning the Grammy Award for Best New Artist, Debby Boone will light up the stage at the Keswick Theatre in Glenside next Sunday, May 13.“Of course, that song will be included in my show,” says the 55-year-old singer. “I think people would be really upset with me if they came to my show and I left that one out. Today, because it’s become such a standard, I realize I owe it to my audience to sing it.”Boone is comfortable singing that song now, but it wasn’t always that way.“When I sang that song I sang it to God, even though most people saw it as a romantic song,” she explained. “When I recorded it I wasn’t in a relationship, so I felt like this was a kind of prayer and so I sang it that way.” But, Boone admitted, because of the popularity of that song, a song that was on almost everyone’s lips once it came out, she got really nervous.“It seemed that for the next three years, nobody wanted me except to do that song,” she said. “That’s all they wanted and so I felt I would never be allowed to grow or sing anything else.”But she needn’t have worried.The third of four daughters born to singer-actor Pat Boone and Shirley Foley Boone — daughter of country music star Red Foley — Boone was just 14 years old when she began touring with her parents and sisters. Later, when the other sisters dropped out of the spotlight, Debby Boone decided she wanted more. That’s when record producer Mike Curb urged Boone to release her first hit solo, You Light Up My Life. “Singing and touring with my dad came about because he didn’t want to travel so much and leave us behind. So we went with him,” she said. “But I think he thought his daughters should get married and settle down. But from the first time I hit the stage, I loved the attention I got. I knew I had found what I could do well and enjoy for the rest of my life.”And she was right. Since those early beginnings, Boone has gone on to make a name for herself in many aspects of music, leading to tours with her father and frequent television appearances. After the success of her first big hit, Boone later focused her music career on country music resulting in the 1980 No. 1 country hit, Are You on the Road to Lovin’ Me Again. In the ‘80s, she recorded Christian music that garnered her four top 10 Contemporary Christian albums as well as two more Grammys.And then, she said, much to her surprise, she was approached to appear in stage productions nationwide including lead roles in Camelot, Meet Me In St. Louis, South Pacific, The Human Comedy and more. “My first show was Seven Brides For Seven Brothers,” Boone recalled. “I think I was one of the lucky ones who got asked to do that role for a Broadway tour rather than having to audition with many others. They came to me because of You Light Up My Life, and I was absolutely thrilled for the opportunity.”Boone’s latest CD, titled Reflections of Rosemary, is a musical portrait of her late mother-in-law, the legendary singer Rosemary Clooney. It is a collection of 14 standards chosen for their significance to Boone’s life with Clooney and will be featured when Boone comes to the Keswick.Married for many years to Gabriel Ferrer, one of Clooney’s sons from her marriage to actor Jose Ferrer, Boone said her spirituality is one of the major reasons she’s been able to enjoy and get through the ups and downs in her life.“My parents were great role models. Watching how my father handled the ups and downs in his own career and in his life gave me the strength I needed in my own life,” she concluded.For show times and ticket information, call 215-572-7650.



For Riverdance, the final flow

When the amazing Riverdance first opened in New York in March 1996, no one ever predicted its long success.“But here we are some sixteen years later still going strong,” said Jason O’Neill, lead dancer with the show, which will give its farewell performance at the Merriam Theater in Center City May 11 to 13.After all these years, Riverdance will close productions in the United States — although it will continue to thrill audiences in other countries around the world.“I’ll continue dancing with the company in other countries, but I will miss the American audiences,” O’Neill said. “In America everyone is so friendly, so very uplifting, and I think the best audience in the world. They express themselves when we’re dancing and we love all the energy they send to us.”O’Neill, 26, was born in Belfast and has been dancing for many years. He danced competitively and achieved first place in the Ulster championships five times. He also won the Great Britain and All Scotland titles, among others, and placed second in the world in solo and team dancing.“I was raised with six sisters and they all danced,” O’Neill explained. “So I guess it was just natural for me to eventually dance too, although originally I was opposed to the idea. But after enough time, I fell totally in love with dance and rhythm, and one thing just led to another.”Still fighting the idea of making dance his career, O’Neill attended college and majored in graphic arts. But soon the pull and the passion were just too strong, and when he auditioned for and won a role in Riverdance, he knew he had to take the chance.“When I was offered the lead I knew this could be my career option. So I turned my back on a graphic design studio and never looked back,” he said.And so it has been, O’Neill joyfully reports. Dancing with the company since 2009, O’Neill has no regrets and just looks forward to continue dancing. “Life on the road can be hard, but I have a real thirst for travel. I love to dance and I love to travel, so even though I don’t get home to Ireland as much as I’d like, it’s all bittersweet,” he said. “I do have days when I miss my family and friends, but every day I get to see new places and new people, so for me it’s all been a mostly positive experience.”Of course, performing in Riverdance can be quite strenuous, and dancers like O’Neill are not without their injuries.“I try to keep in shape by skipping and running every day, as well as dancing. That keeps my body knowing this is what it has to do. But we also travel with massage therapists who keep us on track, and they are lifesavers,” he said.And they’d better be.O’Neill said over the years he’s had sprained ankles, knee injuries and a fractured foot.“But, like anything else, the wounds heal and you just go on from there,” he said. “Riverdance is an original, the first of its kind to feature Irish dancing fused with other types of dancing. It’s a full-scale Broadway production. The music is excellent, and the dancers give it everything they’ve got every single night.”When the show ends its run in America, O’Neill will keep dancing to its music and magic in other countries — which he will continue as long as he can. Eventually, though, he hopes to do other things as well.“Eventually I want to do choreography, and also pursue graphic design and photography,” he said. “But I will continue on this road as long as I can. For me, it’s all about the passion and love I feel for the dance, and I just look forward to continuing to do it for many years.”For times and ticket information, call 215-731-3333.