DIVA TALK: Paige Planning B'way Piaf

DIVA TALK: Paige Planning B'way Piaf Hello, diva lovers! A week from this Saturday, on March 22, Elaine Paige will conclude her critically acclaimed run as Norma Desmond when the New York production of Sunset Boulevard comes to an end. The past seven months have been a wonderful time not only for Paige, but for her many U.S. fans as well, who have been waiting years for Paige to make her Broadway debut after becoming the Queen of London's musical theatre. Paige fans, new and old, have been wondering what EP's post-Sunset plans will be--well, wonder no more. . .

Hello, diva lovers! A week from this Saturday, on March 22, Elaine Paige will conclude her critically acclaimed run as Norma Desmond when the New York production of Sunset Boulevard comes to an end. The past seven months have been a wonderful time not only for Paige, but for her many U.S. fans as well, who have been waiting years for Paige to make her Broadway debut after becoming the Queen of London's musical theatre. Paige fans, new and old, have been wondering what EP's post-Sunset plans will be--well, wonder no more. . .

ELAINE PAIGE
I was sitting in the Circle in the Square Theatre two weeks ago, enjoying a performance of Pam Gems' Stanley, and my mind wandered for a moment, thinking what a great venue the theatre would be for another Gems work, Piaf. Having seen Elaine Paige's dazzling performance in the musical in the West End, I thought what a thrill it would be to see (and hear) her perform the show in such an intimate space. Paige nearly took the roof off the theatre in London, and one can only imagine the sound of her voice in a smaller space. As it turns out, EP is currently in negotiations for next spring (1998), and it looks like she will bring her performance to New York's Circle in the Square or some similar-sized venue. The plan is to run the show, which recounts the often-tragic life of the French chanteuse, for three or four months; then Paige would vacation for a few weeks and return for an open-ended run. EP as EP would truly be the theatrical event of the season.

As for more definite Paige plans, Jonathan, her U.S. publicist, informed me that Paige will perform with the Boston Pops at their 1997 opening night gala on May 7. Paige will perform songs from her many theatre hits, including Evita, Cats, Sunset Boulevard and Piaf. Paige will again perform with the Pops, under the direction of conductor Keith Lockhart, on May 12, and that performance will be taped for broadcast on PBS this summer. For more information and for tickets to "Evening at Pops with Elaine Paige," call Symphony Charge at 617-226-1200.

For those of you who need a dose of Paige a bit sooner, tune in to WQEW 1560 AM in New York on Saturday, March 22. From 4-6 PM, WQEW will broadcast a program highlighting EP's theatrical career, including highlights from her own recordings as well as musical selections from her favorite artists. The program will also feature an interview with the award-winning actress, her first American radio interview. Paige will share her thoughts on the current movie of Evita, a role she created onstage in the 1978 West End production of the musical.

Overseas fans should get themselves to Denmark to witness what promises to be a wonderful event, a concert version of the Tim Rice/ABBA musical Chess that will reunite Elaine with many members of the original cast. At this time, Barbara Dickson--who recorded "I Know Him So Well" with Paige on the original concept album of Chess--is also scheduled to appear. Paige and company will be joined by the Danish Philharmonic in a stadium that seats 45,000! U.S. fans don't fret; Paige is currently scheduling a U.S. concert tour for the fall that will bring her to a few American cities. More details on the concerts when they become available.

Besides her performing efforts, Paige will also work with the Breast Cancer Research Foundation in the U.S. Elaine has been an ardent supporter of Great Britain's cancer research campaigns, and now that she is also working in the U.S., she has become involved in that worthy cause here. Her first fund-raising event for the U.S. organization, which was founded by Evelyn Lauder, will take place April 16. Paige hopes to generate a greater awareness among the theatrical community for this foundation. For more information contact The Breast Cancer Research Foundation at 767 Fifth Avenue, 40th Floor, New York, NY or call (212) 572-4249.

So, even though the Boulevard may be closing, there will be more roads than ever open to one of our favorite ladies, the multi-talented Elaine Paige. BETTY BUCKLEY
Betty B returns to the cabaret stage of Maxim's in New York City March 19-22, with a brand-new collection of songs. During the second show on Thursday, March 20, BB will take requests from the audience from her eclectic repertoire. Be sure to catch Betty in concert; she's one of the foremost interpreters of songs around. Call (212) 751-5111 for reservations.

Betty was also recently nominated for a MAC (Manhattan Association of Cabarets and Clubs) award for Outstanding Major Recording of the Year for her Betty Buckley: Live at Carnegie Hall album. The awards will be presented March 31 at Lincoln Center's Alice Tully Hall. For tickets ($25 $100), call (212) 721-6500.

And, Betty also recorded a song while she was in Los Angeles for a forthcoming concept album of a new musical about the Civil War. The song Ms. B recorded is titled "Five Boys." More information on this project/album when it becomes available.

BERNADETTE PETERS
Bernadette Peters' eagerly-awaited album, which was recorded live at Carnegie Hall in December, is now available in record stores. Titled Sondheim, etc.: Bernadette Peters Live from Carnegie Hall, the album captures highlights from Peters' exhilarating performance at the famed hall.

As discussed in previous columns, the album includes songs from shows Peters has starred in ("Time Heals Everything," "Raining in My Heart") as well as a preponderance of the moving works of Stephen Sondheim ("Move On," "Being Alive," "There Won't Be Trumpets"). About her decision to devote the second half of the concert to Sondheim, Peters recently remarked, "Virtually no other composer reflects on the human condition as powerfully as Steve Sondheim, and he has been such a tremendous source of inspiration in my life and career. The sheer brilliance of his songs- their ability to move people so fondly--always continues to amaze me. So I naturally thought, who could be a more perfect guiding force for this very special evening benefiting GMHC."

Proceeds from the recording, available on Angel Records, will also benefit GMHC. Also, don't forget to catch BP on the "Rosie O'Donnell Show" on March 24. Peters will perform a song as well!

KAREN MASON
Karen Mason continues to dazzle the crowds at Rainbow & Stars with her new cabaret act that includes many songs from her recently released CD Better Days. Mason performs two shows nightly in the posh room atop Rockefeller Center through March 22. For reservations, call 212-632 5000.

Mason was also the subject of "Starfile" in this week's New York Post column by Amy Kean. I thought you would like to read her answers to a group of fun questions:

(1) What are you reading at present? What's your favorite book of all time?
Mason: Right now I'm reading Toni Morrison's "Song of Solomon"--her descriptive prose is amazing. My favorite book is my family's photo album, filled with such great memories!
(2) What record's on your turntable? What's your favorite record?
Mason: I haven't put a record on a turntable in a long time, but Ricky Skaggs and Ann Hampton Callaway are always on my CD player. (Not together!)
(3) What's the last film you saw? What's your favorite film?
Mason: The last film I saw was The Rock, on video. I have crushes on both Sean Connery and Nicolas Cage. My favorite is "Random Harvest" with Greer Garson--there is something rather romantic about amnesia.
(4) In which restaurant did you eat last? What is your favorite restaurant in New York?
Mason: The last restaurant was The Polish Tea Room in the Edison Hotel- they have the best soup. My favorite restaurant is Tartine in the Village.
(5) In your profession whom do you admire most?
Mason: I admire all my friends and fellow performers who not only have careers, but families as well. How do they do it?
(6) What is humanity's most useful invention? Most useless?
Most useful is the camera because we can capture any sight on Earth and share that image for education, enjoyment and memories. It can also be useless because some people rely on pictures instead of living themselves.
(7) Who is the first person you'd invite to your birthday? And the last?
The first would be Mom and Dad--I wouldn't be having a birthday without them. The last would be Jesse Helms--a man far too righteous and full of hate.
(8) If you weren't in your present career, what one would you have chosen?
Mason: A travel agent so that I could travel as much as possible. Or maybe Queen.
(9) What period of history would you most like to have lived in?
Mason: This period is challenging enough. Living in another time filled with more unknowns (and maybe no plumbing) would be hard.
(10) If you were told the world was ending tomorrow, what would you do?
Mason: I would contact my close friends and family and be with them; then I'd find the nearest grocery store and eat my way through the bakery section. OTHER HIGHLIGHTS/NOTES:
Debra Byrne:
Debra Byrne, who portrayed Fantine in the Australian cast of Les Miz, currently stars as Norma Desmond in that country's production of Sunset Boulevard. Craig, our diva reporter down under, recently informed me that although the Australian production of Sunset is not being recorded, Byrne has recorded her Sunset songs for a forthcoming album of theatre tunes. The album, which is set for release in Australia in April, will also include some Sondheim tunes as well. I'll keep you posted.

Patti LuPone:
Be sure to check local listings for the Colm Wilkinson concert on PBS that includes La LuPone singing a bunch of her theatre hits: "Don't Cry for Me Argentina," "As Long As He Needs Me," "I Dreamed a Dream" plus Irving Berlin's "Stepping Out." And, next month Patti brings her stunning portryal of Maria Callas in Terrence McNally's Master Class to London.

Donna Murphy
concludes her run in the Broadway revival of The King and I this Sunday, March 16. Tony winner Faith Prince takes over as Anna on March 21.

Currently on-line in the "Features" section: An interview with Sunset star John Barrowman (who talks about working with Elaine and Betty).
Next week: Betty Buckley in concert at Maxim's.
Coming soon: Elaine Paige's final night in Sunset Boulevard . . .


That's all for now. Happy diva-watching!

-- By Andrew Gans
e-mail me at andrew_gans@playbill.com