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

By Andrew Gans
22 Feb 2013

Elaine Paige

Question: Also, while you were here this past time, you made your New York concert debut at the Allen Room…
Paige: Yeah! That was thrilling and very nerve-wracking and very exciting, yes. But, of course, in turn, has spawned the reason I am coming to do this tour because it was so well received.

Question: It was a thrilling concert.
Paige: Thank you, so it's really more of the same. I'm going to be doing sort of similar, if not practically the same, concert all over the country, which is thrilling because I've wanted to do this for so many years, and I don't know, somehow never kind of quite got around to it. Every time I leave the States, I always become embroiled in tours and work, commitments here and in Europe and in Asia and Australia. So Elaine Stritch, when I was there this time—as always, we get together because we're friends, and I was having tea with her at the Carlyle there, and I gave her the CD—"Elaine Paige Live"—and, of course, she then rang me up. She said, "You know… You've got to be doing this here." She banged on about how I really ought to be doing it in the States… She said, "You've got to sort your schedule out. You must do it. You must come and do it." So I thought after Follies and after the experience at the Lincoln Center, I thought she was probably right—I should try to really make an effort, more of an effort to make it happen, and so I have this time, and I am very excited about it.

Question: What kind of repertoire will you be doing here?
Paige: I'm going to be telling my story, rather as I did at the Lincoln Center, I'm going to pepper my theatrical journey, if you like, from my beginnings in Hair through working in Follies. I shall make reference to that because I've invited a lot of my Follies gang from the show, so we're going to have a proper reunion in New York I hope. [Laughs.] A lot of them are coming—those that aren't working are going to join me afterwards for a drink I hope. But basically I'm going to be telling my story—my theatrical story—from the beginning, and, as I say, tell stories and anecdotes in between the hits from all the musicals that I've been lucky enough to appear in like Evita and Chess and Cats.

Question: When you look back at your career, are you ever amazed by all that you have been able to do?
Paige: … Of course. You know, I don't know if I ever would have dreamt that I could have had this career…and this long! I mean, the fact that anybody still wants to come and listen to me sing is pretty amazing to me as well! [Laughs.] And, it truly is amazing. When I was putting the tour together, there's so much that I have done in various shows. It was quite difficult to work out what to keep in and what to throw out for this concert. That's the hard part, trying to work out what to tell and what to leave out… It's been truly amazing. Who could have predicted such a thing?

Question: Also, it's been such an international career, not just here, but you play all over Europe and Asia…
Paige: I could never have imagined. I mean, I was thinking the other day. Somebody asked me, "Which was the one that was most memorable and so on, and which would I like to revisit?" And, I was thinking about Evita and how that came along, and how I managed to land that role is still remarkable to me because that really did change everything for me. It gave me a career, really, in musical theatre. And, I still think, "If she hadn't have been 5'2'', I might never have…" It was luck! Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice had written that show about a small, blonde woman, and with that wonderful score, and that gave me a serious opportunity, and I grabbed it with everything. But had that not come along, who knows? I might never have had this career.

Question: When did the recording career start?
Paige: Well, I always dabbled in studio work before Evita because I used to do doo-wops on other people's albums to make some money. And, I had a little band early on or during Hair days in the late '60s-early '70s called Sparrow. Of course, at the time, never connected the fact with Piaf or anything, but that was the name of the band, and we were trying to write a musical, and we recorded a few things, and so on and so forth, but I never really managed to get anything [to take off] because it was very difficult to get a recording contract in those days if you were nobody. It took Evita, really, to plop me on the map, and I think also due to the fact that it was Tim and Andrew—all of their musicals had always been recorded first on vinyl and released before they were mounted as theatrical shows… Because of that fact, Tim was instrumental in helping me put together an album on Warner Bros. Probably because of him and Andrew, they approached me to see if I ever wanted to do an album, but they wanted theatrical songs, obviously. But it was my idea for my first album, called "Stages," to be theatrical songs done [with] a modern take. So we used synthesizers, and I didn't sing them as great, big dramatic ballads. I tried to give them more of a pop twist. And, that album was a platinum-selling album, which was pretty extraordinary in those days because nobody in the theatre prior to that had ever had a recording career as well, so it was amazing.

Question: What's your take on the Internet and YouTube?
Paige: Well, today, funny enough, I've just hit 10,000 tweeting followers, which I'm surprised about! I know it's not that many, really, but that was pretty exciting—a momentous moment! [Laughs.] Mad fools that they are! But anyway, I quite like Twitter… On the one hand, I like this modern world we live in, in the fact that it's at your fingertips—you can find absolutely anything out about anything at all at the flick of a switch practically. I like that. But there's aspects of it as well, I think, that are not too good—people say the most dreadful things about people on Twitter… There are certain people I like to follow, but I'm not so immersed in it. Of course, I couldn't live without email now. It's the most marvelous way of staying in touch with people.