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.
Question: Have you ever seen the musical from the audience?
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.]
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