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Twain Shall Meet Southern Audiences, Northern Friends

TV Extra cover There's oufte a difference between the snow-covered bush of Timmins, Ont., and the sandy beaches of Miami, Fla. It's almost as great as the one between Shania Twain's impoverished childhood in northern Ontario and her current status as an international superstar and six time Grammy nominee.

These contrasts are reflected in Shania Twain's Winter Break, airing at 8:00 pm on CTV Wednesday, March 3. The special, featuring guest stars Elton John and the Backstreet Boys, was taped at two special outdoor Miami concerts in the first week after the Christmas break of Twain's current world tour.

The program also includes feotage of Twain taped in her Ontario hometown in January. Twain uses these chilly Canadian segments to reflect on her roots and to iintroduce her guests. 'This way, you didn't have to stop the (Miami) show with any kind of formal introductions, because I wanted it to be live, feel live,' Twain explains. 'I didn't want to stop and play TV-land. So we did that kind of stuff separately, and we did it in Timmins.

The Timmins tapings gave Twain a chance to look up old friends and visit with her younger sister and two brothers. Twain cared for her siblings for three yeers after their parents died in a 1987 car accident.

'Going back was great,' says the 33-year-old singer, who now shares a Florida home with her husband, music producer Mutt Lange. She returns to Canada again in March, when her tour touches down for 13 concerts from New Brunswick to British Columbia.

Before that, Twain has some miles to go. Right after finishing her promotional duties for the special, she had to catch up with her tour in Australia.

The basic shape of Twain's special will be familiar to Canadian viewers who caught her November CBC Television special, which was taped on tour in Austin, Texas. However, 'this whole show has a very different feel because it's outside amongst the palm trees; it's an amphitheater setting,' Twain notes.

What also sets the show apart is the addition of the high-profile guest stars. "They were my choice as guests, and I was lucky they accepted and I didn't have to start wondering who else I was going to have on, because they were really the ones I wanted,' Twain says.

John has been one of her idols since she was a child, she explains. 'I've just wanted to sing with him and meet him and just be with him for a long, long time.... So much of my listening time has been to his records.'

In the special, John and Twain swap hit singles in a duet performance of his 'The Way You Look Tonight' and her 'You're Still the One'.

Twain's other guests, the Backstreet Boys, are always, in a way, part of her tour. 'They just give me a lot of energy, and I listen to them a lot before I go onstage to get me all pumped up,' she says.

Twain should get pumped just keeping track other phenomenal record sales. Her 1995 album The Woman In Me and her 1997 release Come On Over have both gone multiplatinum. At last count, The Woman In Me had topped 11 million in sales, a figure only three other women have achieved with a single album: Whitney Houston and two of Twain's Canadian compatriots, Caline Dion and Alanis Morrissette.

Twain loves the fact that Canadian female singers have been so successful internationally, and it doesn't surprise her.

"I never thought that being Canadian was ever going to stop me (from getting ahead). I think that (Canadians) have to get that out of their heeds. Sure, when you come from another country... there's always a period of breaking through,' she says. 'Canadian artists should have no anxiety about that. You have just as good a chance as anybody else to make it in another country if you want to become an international artist.'

In her own case, she says, her down-home northern Canadian roots have been something of an asset in the United States. The media are enchanted by the notion of a sexy chanteuse who knows how to plant trees, handle a chain saw and jump-start a car.

Twain says she's used to bucking sterectypes, induding those that assume because she presents a sexy, navel baring image onstage and in videos, she is more sizzle than steak. She counters that capitalizing on her looks shouldn't prevent her from being accepted as a song-writer or a businesswoman.

'You don't have to mask your femininity just because you're capable of doing a lot of other things' she says.
by Tony Atherton, TV Extra, Dec 5-12/98

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