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Elaine Paige: Much more than just a showgirl

PUBLISHED: 12:46 22 March 2011 | UPDATED: 19:02 20 February 2013

Elaine Paige: Much more than just a showgirl

Elaine Paige: Much more than just a showgirl

As well as her West End fame Elaine Page has her own popular radio show and is dabbling with jazz. Dave Gooderham meets a singer going from strength to strength

As well as her West End fame Elaine Page has her own popular radio show and is dabbling with jazz. Dave Gooderham meets a singer going from strength to strength



She has recorded four multi-platinum albums, won award after award and even sung at the White House.


But it could have been so different for Elaine Paige, now justifably described as The First Lady of Musical Theatre.


At the age of 30, and after suffering too many rejections at the final stages of casting, Elaine was considering walking away from it all.


She recalls: "I was always getting down to the last one or two but not getting the part. It meant I had something but it wasnt enough. I had been trying to get a big break for 16 years and I was getting tired of not being able to make a living.


"My friends were at an age when they were settling down and being able to afford to go out for dinner or go to the theatre the one thing I loved and I couldnt do. I wasnt getting anywhere and I was penniless. Because I always liked children, I started looking at other areas of work."


Just months later, she landed the role of Eva Peron in Evita and was catapulted into fame and stardom.


The world of childcares loss was certainly the stage and screens gain.


She followed her career-defining part by creating the role of Grizabella in the original production of Cats the classic song Memory became one of Elaines many hit records.


Her stage success kept on coming through the likes of Sunset Boulevard, in both London and Broadway, and Chess where she performed the record-breaking number one I Know Him So Well with Barbara Dickson.


After more than 40 years in the West End and a career that has also seen sweeping success in the music industry, Elaine is showing no signs of losing any motivation as she prepares to embark on a 12-concert, two-week tour.


She said: "I am really looking forward to the tour. It is a brand new show containing a mix of both my theatre and recording career. I will naturally keep in all the songs that have made me famous as people still seem to want to hear them. But there will be songs from my new album and some with a more jazzy feel it is a real pot pourri show so something for everyone."


In the current world of instant fame Susan Boyles admiration for Elaine has been well documented it is in some ways remarkable Elaine still achieves the success she does.


Her new album, Elaine Paige and Friends, entered the UK Top 20 in November 2010 soon after its release, topping 100,000 sales and earning another gold disc for the Paige household.


The album saw her perform with a string of top artists, from Billy Ocean to Neil Sedaka, Dionne Warwick to Sinead OConnor.


She remarked: "The way the music business is now you generally need to be under 25 and a pop singer to sell well. So I was shocked and delighted by how well the album has done.


"It was very personal to me, I chose the songs very carefully. They were all songs that remind me of times in my life I think music is great for making people think of certain moments. The people I dueted with were also very special to me.


"When I first started out, I can remember Billy Ocean in Denmark Street, London, where everyone who was everyone used to hang out. Barry Manilow and John Barrowman are dear friends and I first met Johnny Mathis when I interviewed him for my radio show.


"It was a lot of fun recording the album. For me to sing with all these wonderful people, some of which were my heroes when I was starting out, was pretty special."


Maybe an answer for her professional longevity is Elaines ability to adapt, survive and thrive. If being an award-winning musical theatre star and multi-platinum recording artist was not enough, Elaine also fronts a hugely popular show on BBC Radio 2 which attracts more than two million listeners every week.


And she is even willing to try new musical genres after performing at the prestigious Cheltenham Jazz Festival for the first time last year.


The audience will get a glimpse of the new sound when she performs at the Regent and Elaine said: "I really enjoyed performing at the festival. It was the first time I had performed jazz and it was nice to be a bit more up-tempo and be a little bit more free with your performance. I was just asked out of the blue if I wanted to perform at the festival and it was great fun.


"It is always a challenge trying to do other forms of music but to my surprise the audience seemed to really enjoy it."


Elaine admits her audience will expect her to sing old favourites such as Memories as well as the great hits and modern classics released in her last album with rumours of potential duets on stage.


But despite her adaptability, one thing will never leave Elaines heart the stage. At the end of her tour, she will jet off to America to play Carlotta in the Washington Kennedy Center production of Stephen Sondheims Follies.


She said: "I can never imagine retiring. I enjoy performing too much it is a wonderful way to spend your life. This business is a bit like a drug. Once it is in your veins, you cant really imagine living without it."


You somehow cant imagine that Elaine Paige would have been content as a nursery nurse.


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