Elaine Paige was In Conversation at The Oak Room at The Hospital Club, London.
Last night at The Hospital Club, Elaine Paige continued to entertain audiences with her charm, infectious laugh and stories from a fantastic career.
As part of a celebration of Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts’ 70th anniversary, three of the Academy’s associates will be in conversation about their careers and how they have been involved in encouraging budding young actors (on this occasion theatre critic Mark Shenton was firing the questions). Following in Paige’s footsteps will be Mountview’s president, Dame Judi Dench, and award-winning actor Brian Cox.
Together, Shenton and Paige took us through her impressive career. Paige has recently celebrated her 50th year in the industry with a farewell tour. She assured us, however, that this most certainly was not farewell, but just farewell to touring and the lifestyle that comes with it.
Audiences will remember Paige from her portrayal of Eva Peron in Evita in 1978 – her big break when the actress and singer was deemed an overnight success. However, her career actually began 14 years earlier with smaller roles and stints in the chorus.
As expected, the First Lady of the West End provided plenty of anecdotes; in 1968 she joined the cast of Hair – which was quite sensational for its time. Paige had to come to terms with this exposing role and a rather nice looking cast-mate apparently helped her get to grips with it!
Paige also talked about the audition outfit that she believed help secure her the part of Eva Peron and how she ended up playing Jeanie during her time in Hair, making it to Broadway, and countless times taking over from injured or ill actors.
While having her go at producing for Anything Goes, Paige discovered one Mr John Barrowman. She said that the challenging role of producing taught her that if an actor didn’t get a part, that wasn’t necessarily a sign that the talent wasn’t there – the casting team could simply be looking for certain characteristics. Perhaps some of the best advice she could have given the young faces in the audience.
Of course, not everything was always a bed of roses, as she still seemed haunted by a very difficult run in The King and I, where she got through playing opposite so many Kings that she chose to rename the show ‘The Kings and Me’.
Paige has made a number of iconic songs her own, you don’t need to be a musical theatre fan to know ‘Memory’ from Cats, ‘Don’t Cry For Me Argentina’ from Evita and ‘I Know Him So Well’ from Chess. The actress explained how she finds it odd to hear these sung by other leading ladies, but can still appreciate the different interpretations and they always help to bring wonderful memories flooding back.
Proceeds from these events will go to the Mountview bursary scheme, as well as the h.Club Foundation, an independent charity that supports and partners with organisations and programmes using the creative arts to engage and inspire communities across London.
* Future events as part of the series are: Brian Cox In Conversation with director Matthew Smith on Thursday 28 May, and Judi Dench In Conversation with Richard Eyre on Thursday 11 June.
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