BWW Interviews: The First Lady Of The British Theatre, Elaine Paige, Graces The McCallum Theatre Stage 2/27
The incredible Elaine Page brings her one woman concert to the McCallum Theatre tonight for a one-night-only, intimate look into her life and her career, singing the songs and recreating the magical moments from her many hit shows on Broadway and the West End. I had the opportunity to catch up with Ms. Paige as she was preparing for her concert this evening at The McCallum Theatre. Here are a few highlights from that conversation.
DG: I'm sure you hear this a lot, but I'm a big fan, And I'm very excited because this will be the first opportunity I have had to see you perform live.
EP: That's something considering I've been around for over forty years. I'm thrilled that, at last, you've made it.
DG: What's the first song you ever sang in front of an audience?
EP: Oh my goodness, I was a child. A girlfriend of mine and I put together a little - a few songs - for a Cabaret for some charity event or other. I was about fourteen years old, I think, And we sang things like "The Trolley Song" - you know, the real standards, and I can remember being very nervous indeed about it, but thrilled after it was over. I had a great time, you know.
DG: Did you study theatre in school?
EP: Not at regular school. I left school at sixteen and I then went and I did a drama course - a student drama course - for three years at a college called Ada Foster in England. I learned all about drama and dance and performing and Shakespeare and all of that. It was a fantastic three years and that's really what set me on the road, really, I knew once I had started doing that that I was hooked.
DG: Would you consider yourself foremost an actor or a singer?
EP: Well, it's a funny thing It's a bit of a mix. I always used to consider myself an actor first and foremost. Somebody that just happened to be able to sing. I think in many respects that is how I view myself because when I look to sing any kind of song or record any kind of song mostly I'm interested in the lyric or the text of the piece first, you know. But, of course, that's what I love about Musical Theatre is it gives you the opportunity to act and sing. The two things come together, and that's what I love.
DG: What was your first professional role?
EP: My first professional role was in a musical written by Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley and it was called - it was the show they did after "Stop The World I Want To Get Off" - and it was called "The Roar Of The Greasepaint, the Smell Of The Crowd" and I was very much in the chorus. I played an urchin. Which is something I seem to do quite a lot. Because I'm short in stature and always looked younger than my years. I was playing urchins right up to the age of about twenty seven. (She laughs)
DG: Who would you say has been the biggest influence on your career?
EP: It's an interesting thing. I think, as you go through your career, you meet different people who are catalyst for your journey along the way, if you like, and I suppose the first person who helped me and made me realize I had a talent at all was my music teacher at my regular school. I was part of the school choir. Her name was Ann Hill and she was the one really who helped me recognize that I had singing voice. I mean, I always knew I loved to sing, but I didn't realize I had anything more than most. But she was the one who started to guide me towards performing. And I suppose further along the route having managed to get some jobs and be successful at the audition process after drama school - I suppose meeting and working with Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice. They would have been, definitely, people in my career who helped me because, you know, they wrote Evita and that was the show really that made me, if you like, a career at all in Musical Theatre. They were the people in terms of helping me in my career but I also have to consider who I used to look up to and admire as I was a young artist - and I suppose Judy Garland, Lena Horne, Barbra Streisand, Bette Midler - these were the artists that I looked up to and admired.
DG: If you weren't a performer, what else might you be doing?
EP: Oh my goodness me, I hate this question. (She laughs) I can't really imagine doing anything else. There's nothing else I'm really very good at. Atone point I my career, just prior to Evita, I was thinking of giving it all up and I was kind of mulling over what I might do and I thought at one point I might like to work in a children's nursery. I like children and I thought I might do that. So, I'm glad I didn't have to make that decision.
DG: Is there a role that you have not yet played that you would like to play?
EP: Well, I always think I'd like to play Gypsy, but I think now the idea of that would probably kill me off if I had to do that eight times a week. So I think I have to admit that that one has probably passed me by. I enjoy my concert work really more and more at the moment, because that affords me the opportunity to decide where I shall work and how long for and what I shall sing and so on. So that's what I like doing at the moment.
DG: Speaking of that, what can the McCallum audiences expect from your show?
EP: Well. I'm going to be really telling my personal story. My life and work and the musical theatre, really, telling some anecdotes along the way and people I've met and things that have happened to me. But really it's all the hits from all the shows I've been lucky enough to be in. I think if you're a lover of Musical Theatre, certainly, I think you'll enjoy it because it's all the hits.
DG: What is something about you nobody knows by looking at our resume?
EP: Gosh, Interesting, I've never been asked that before. Umm .. well, I don't know. I like playing tennis. I don't think that's on my resume. I can't begin to think. That's the only thing I can think of. I dabble aaround with paint a bit, but I don't know how good I am at it. (She laughs)
DG: One final question. The way I close all my interviews. One day ... in the far distant future ... how would you like to be remembered on your tombstone?
EP: Oh my gosh. I don't know. Well ... I was there, and ... I've never really thought about this either ... well ... It was a good ride! (She laughs) I suppose that's it.