Does a country that already has a Hockey Hall of Fame, a omnipresent coffee chain named after a defenseman and Wayne Gretzky Riesling really need an all dancing, all singing tribute to the sport? Olivia Newton-John apparently thought so when she signed on to star in Score: A Hockey Musical a parody of hockey violence set to a soundtrack that rhymes baloney with Zamboni.
She hadn’t appeared in a full-on musical in thirty years, not since the one-two punch of Grease (which saw the 29 year old play a high school senior and score the biggest box-office hit of 1978) and Xanadu which paired her with Hollywood legend Gene Kelly. Score writer and director Michael McGowan always imagined John in the role of the hockey prodigy’s pacifist mom but didn’t think he’d be able to get the Australian superstar, who now makes her home in Florida, to come north to shoot the film.
“She’s funny and she doesn’t take herself seriously,” he said, “but for her to say, ‘This is the film, a hockey musical shot in Toronto, in February, seemed virtually impossible.”
The key word there is “virtually.” As McGowan soon learned nothing is impossible when the movie co-stars one of your potential leading lady’s best friends.
“Marc Jordan [who plays her husband in the film] is my friend,” said Newton-John, “and he is married to Amy Sky, one of my best friends who also produces my music, so why not?”
She wasn’t quite prepared for shooting in Toronto in frigid February temperatures—that was “an experience,” she says—but the warmth of the Canadian cast and crew took away any edge she may have been feeling. “My memory of the movie was having fun,” she says.
Occasionally she had a bit too much fun with co-star Jordan—a solo singer-songwriter who wrote the hit Rhythm of My Heart for Rod Stewart—who would cause her to get the giggles so badly she could barely contain herself. “I was really embarrassed in the end because you can break up a couple of times but you have to know when to stop, but Marc was just so hysterical.”
She also notes that McGowan “has a quirky sense of humor which fits in with mine really well,” but saves her highest praise for her young co-stars, Noah Reid and Allie MacDonald who play her son and his best friend. When asked if she passed along any tips to the neophytes she said, “They are both really gifted. I probably should have asked them for hints rather than the other way around.”
She describes the final product as “a lot of good fun” but insists there is a message to the film.
“I’m not one for violence and was brought up in the same kind of family as [the character of her home-schooled-pacifist-hockey-prodigy-son Farley Gordon]. Maybe not quite as stringent but my father was a professor and parents were academic and peace was a big thing for my mother. It wasn’t important to win, it was important to play fair, so [Score: A Hockey Musical] kind of rung true for me. I like that message. I thought it was sweet but it also funny and ironic and campy and that is part of what people like about it.”
When it was all said and done did playing a hockey mom and shooting in the home of the Maple Leafs make her a hockey fan? “I guess I’ll have to become one,” she laughs. “My husband loves it and he took me to a game a few years ago in Florida. I couldn’t keep up with the puck though. It was too fast.”