By Andrew Gans
22 Feb 2013
Elaine Paige, the most exciting musical theatre star to emerge from the West End in this writer's lifetime, is heading back to the States for her first-ever U.S. concert tour, which will include a stop at New York's The Town Hall March 9. The gifted singing actress, last seen on this side of the Atlantic in a Drama Desk-nominated performance as Carlotta Campion in the Tony-nominated revival of Stephen Sondheim's Follies, will also share her theatrical journey in song with audiences in Arizona, California, Florida, Virginia, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. I rarely say readers of this column "must" attend a performance, but if you are a fan of the musical theatre or of tremendous singing, then, truly, do not miss the chance to see this Olivier-winning artist, who created leading roles in the world premieres of Evita, Cats and Chess and later triumphed in productions of Anything Goes, Piaf, The King and I and Sunset Boulevard, live.
I have had the great opportunity to catch the versatile performer in a full concert evening twice, and the best word to describe her performance is volcanic; when that golden voice opens, it pours out like rich lava, and the sound that envelops the entire concert hall is simply thrilling. She is also a spell-binding actress, who delves deeply into each and every song. On Valentine's Day, I again had the chance to chat with the witty, good-humored Paige, who had just returned to London following a Scandinavian concert tour. It's always a treat to catch up with the British star, who is as enjoyable offstage as she is on; our conversation, which was filled with much laughter, follows.
Question: Happy Valentine's Day! Any special plans?
Elaine Paige: Well, my chap and I are going out for dinner, after having seen Chess. There's a production of Chess being performed tonight here in Southwark in London. He has never seen it, so I'm taking him! [Laughs.] And then we're going out for dinner.
Paige: I have! I've seen it in Sweden, actually—in Stockholm. Benny [Andersson] and Björn [Ulvaeus] invited me over to see a production that they had done of it, and they changed it around quite a bit… You saw more of the backstory of the people, particularly my character, Florence, and the [Russian] chess player. It was a good production, even though it was all in Swedish! Of course, I didn't understand a word they were singing, but since I knew it quite well—excuse the pun—knew the story quite well, it didn't matter that it was all in Swedish… I also saw it at the Albert Hall… It was a concert version with Idina Menzel singing my role and the wonderful Josh Groban… That was quite interesting as well to see it in concert with an orchestra. That's the best [format] I think.
Question: What's it like for you seeing someone else play a role that you created?
Paige: It's always weird, to be honest! I mean, I understand why Hal Prince never goes to see a production that he [previously] directed—probably for the same kind of reason. [Laughs.] It's always strange to see another production and see somebody else singing a role that you do know backwards, but, you know, I'm getting older now, so you have to let go! [Laughs.]