No stopping Bert
Bert Newton is preparing to replace Alan Jones as President Roosevelt in Annie. Picture: Jeff Busby

After six decades of entertaining Australians, Bert Newton shows no sign of slowing down.

The 18-time Logie Award winner returns to the stage in Melbourne tonight, taking over the role of President Roosevelt from radio presenter Alan Jones in the touring production of Annie, which opens at the Burswood Theatre on August 24.

"I have always thought there are two ways you leave the industry that is show business, one is that it is your choice, whether that is health or other personal reasons, and the other is a tap on the shoulder," Newton told AAA.

"And so while the tap on the shoulder isn't happening and I am feeling good, I would like to keep going."

With two major health scares in the past year (a heart scare in Singapore in February and viral pneumonia last June), Newton said the irony wasn't lost on him that his new role saw him spend the show in a wheelchair.

"It is ironic - and that's what makes life and living so great," Newton said.

"I meant the real thing, a couple of months ago, wasn't the most fun in life but I got through it fortunately."

After almost three years touring with Wicked, Newton said he was looking forward to being back on stage without the same physical demands.

"It wasn't all that important to me to meet the choreographer," he said with a laugh. "The only time he is on his feet is during the curtain call.

"I have just had photographs taken with Alan where he is pushing me in a wheelchair and I said they are going to see these photographs in 30 or 40 years time and they are going to say 'Oh that's what happened to Newton - he was obviously paralysed and, by gosh, Alan Jones was his carer'."

The 74-year-old said that, during his month-long stay in Perth, he expected to be visited by his wife Patti and his daughter Lauren, son-in-law former swimmer Matt Welsh and their two children, including four-month-old Lola.

"I think they will be visiting Perth. It has been the light of my life, my grandchildren," he said with obvious pride.

Bert and Patti's troubled son Matthew is currently in the US under 24-hour supervision in a mental health facility, and he is listed to stand trial tomorrow on charges relating to incidents at a Miami restaurant and a hotel in April.

While he couldn't say much because of "legal matters" Bert said he was confident there would be a positive ending for Matthew in the future.

"I believe there is going to be the happy ending that we strive for, we pray for," he said. "It has not been easy... but the thing is you have to stay positive and, more importantly stay together and that is how Patti and I and the whole family approach it."

Even though he and his wife are in the public eye, Bert said he was often conflicted whether to speak out on the matter.

"In some ways it is a no-win situation because if you do say something you don't win and if you don't say something you don't win," he said.

"You have to remember that you are not approaching this as an entertainer, you approach a matter like this as a mother and father and that is what we are doing."

The West Australian

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