DIVA TALK: A Dozen Must-Have Female Vocal Recordings

By Andrew Gans
19 Jul 2013

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Elaine Paige

As a high school/college student who was a fan of London's Elaine Paige, I never thought I would actually have the good fortune to see the Olivier-winning actress perform live. Years later, I'm thrilled to have been able to catch her work in several musicals, and whenever I see her perform, it makes me understand why she was able to originate the leading roles in Evita, Cats and Chess, triumph equally well with revivals of The King and I, Piaf and Anything Goes and even put her own stamp on Sweeney Todd's Nellie Lovett and Sunset Boulevard's Norma Desmond: pure talent mixed with a voice that soars like few others and a genuine joie de vivre that is completely contagious. Paige always possessed a strong, rangy belt, but as the years passed her voice grew even stronger and richer; in fact, when that singular voice opens in its upper register and out pours a rich, throbbing tone, one can only sit back and revel in the magnificent sound. On her "Encore" compilation disc, which was released in 1995, listeners are treated to many of the singing actress' greatest hits, including "Don't Cry for Me Argentina," "Memory" and "I Know Him So Well." The recording is especially valuable because it preserves three songs from her stunning turn as Norma Desmond in Andrew Lloyd Webber's Sunset Boulevard: a beautiful "The Perfect Year," a roof-raising "With One Look" and one of the best-ever versions of "As If We Never Said Goodbye," where actress meets singer in superb fashion. Paige is equally at home bringing her golden vocals to the songs of Edith Piaf: terrific versions of "Mon Dieu," "Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien" and "If You Love Me."