Elaine Paige: Good Times and Bum Times

The musical theater legend looks back at a storied career, from originating the lead roles in Evita, Cats, Chess, to her latest showstopper in the acclaimed revival of Follies.

BY John Carroll

June 01 2012 12:00 PM ET

ELAINE PAIGE VERTICAL CREDITED X400 | ADVOCATE.COMWhat you could do with your voice and what the score of Evita called for changed the female sound in musical theater.
I've never thought about that actually, now that you mention it. I've always tried to cover the break in my voice from chest register to soprano. I would sing along with all of my Barbra Streisand albums and work with a tape recorder until I'd perfected the sound. Andrew said that vocally I went to places no normal person would dare to go. I think he meant because it could be dangerous for the vocal chords, but touch wood I've never had any problems.

When Piers Morgan asked Andrew Lloyd Webber what his favorite moment in his life was outside of personal events like love, marriage and children, he said instantly, "Elaine Paige, opening night of Evita in London." From your memory was opening night of Evita that amazing?
It truly was. At the curtain call, the audience went bananas. I had left the stage and went to my tiny dressing room that was two flights up.

Wait a minute. You were the title character of the show and you didn't have a dressing room near the stage?
David Essex was the star name in Evita. I was unknown to the public, though known within the industry, so I had second billing. The press said I became a star overnight, which is funny, as I'd been working for 12 years prior. Hardly overnight.

That's crazy.
So, the company manager ran to get me and said, "Come on, you have to come back, the audience won't go away." He grabbed hold of me and forced me back down to the stage and I'm thinking, "This is going to be embarrassing when I get all the way down there and the audience is gone." The entire theater was standing and chanting, "Evita, Elaine." One of the producers had a tape recorder and gave me an EP record of it as a memento. I still can’t believe it, it was overwhelming.

You're one of the funniest people I know with an amazingly contagious laugh. What role has humor played in your ability to navigate this crazy business in a career that has spanned over 40 years?
Thanks for reminding me. [Laughs] We are so fortunate to be in this business and though I take my work very seriously, you have to learn to take the knocks, the rejection, and the disappointments. So, I've learned not to take myself too seriously. You have to have humor, how can you survive without it?

So what's next for you?
I have a concert tour starting in Scandinavia, then off to Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Singapore, ending in China. Next year I'm coming back to the States to do my first-ever U.S. tour. It's taken me, oh, I don't know... only 40 years. It starts right here in L.A. on February 23, then Vegas, Mesa, Arizona at the Piper Theater, Palm Springs at the McCallum Theater, San Francisco at the Venetian Room, then the rest of the country. I'm so excited — another first!

Elaine, thank you so much for chatting with me, I'm going to let you rest before our second show.
Darling, I better shut up now, and if I can't sing tonight from talking too much, it's your fault. 

 

Paige and Carroll perform in Follies at L.A.'s Ahmanson Theatre through June 9. For more information on Paige go to ElainePaige.com. For more information on Carroll go to TheJohnCarroll.com.

Tags: Theater

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