DIVA TALK: A Conversation with Olivier Winner Elaine Paige, U.S.-Bound for Concert Tour

By Andrew Gans
22 Feb 2013

Paige in Follies.
photo by Joan Marcus

Question: The last time we spoke you were doing Follies on Broadway. What was the L.A. experience like for you when you took Follies there?
Paige: It was an interesting experience in that, having started the journey of Follies in Washington, and then bringing it to Broadway—which was such fun and amazing for me to be back on Broadway, just brilliant and thrilling—and then we took a break before doing it again in L.A. It was different, obviously, because we had a different leading lady—Bernadette [Peters] wasn't there… Vicki [Clark], who was wonderful and so very completely different from Bernadette, and it was interesting how that kind of changed the balance, I suppose you could say, a bit. And, we didn't have Rosalind [Elias] the opera singer—there was a new opera singer. As wonderful as all of these new faces were, it never is quite the same somehow, is it, when the company that rehearsed and grew together through rehearsal period is altered. But, nevertheless, having said that, I think the show was in great shape, and the audiences in L.A. lapped it up. I must say, they seemed to absolutely adore it, but, for me, the living in L.A.—I'm a city girl, so I found that quite difficult. I have a few friends in L.A., not a lot, but a few friends. But it's that awful thing of having to organize everything to the nth degree because you have to drive everywhere to see anybody. So it's quite a lonely existence, I found it to be.

Question: I've never really lived out there, but I don't think I would like it either. I like being able to walk out and have everything right there.
Paige: Me, too, and I like to do things off the cuff and spontaneously. You can't really do that so well in L.A. because of having to drive everywhere, so I found the living experience there was not as I had remembered it many years prior when I was there in 1991, I think, making an album—my pop album, as it were. I really had a great time, and I loved it, but then I wasn't living on my own out there at the time.… But [this recent stay] was great. I enjoyed going to the theatre and doing the show again every night… Also, everything was going on here, at home, in England. It was the Queen's Jubilee, and so I would wake up the morning of the extravaganza that they had down the River Thames here…and I was glued to the television—your television—at unearthly hours in the morning and Skyping England all the time so that I could feel part of this momentous occasion, and in turn, in doing that, made me feel terribly homesick! [Laughs.] … It was a big year last year for the Royal Family. I really felt like I was missing it all! [Laughs.] I mean, I'm jesting about that to some degree, but although I'm jesting about it, there's an element of truth in it. So I remember finding a most marvelous cake shop in Beverly Hills, and I ordered a huge tea, and one weekend when we were doing the back-to-back matinee scenario, I got them to deliver this fantastic spread of English tea, basically, for all my American pals in Follies. They all woofed it up—thought it was all wonderful! So that was fun—I brought a little bit of England to L.A. I took lots of pictures, and I put bunting up—red, white and blue bunting—all over my dressing room door and up the corridor, and they all thought I lost the plot completely and had gone mad, but it was good fun.

Question: Was performing in Follies in D.C., Broadway and L.A. the longest time you'd ever been away from London?
Paige: No, because when I came over to do Sunset on Broadway, I was in New York for a year at least then because I came out early. I think I played eight or nine months, so it was about the same kind of time. But it's interesting how after about a year, I start to feel, "Oh! I need to move again!" It must be the gypsy in me. [Laughs.]