Star of more smash-hit West End and Broadway musicals than anyone else, national treasure Elaine Paige is rightly known as the First Lady of Musical Theatre. This autumn, in a series of intimate and relaxed weekend concerts, she takes fans on a musical journey back through the years.
With more than 22 solo albums under her belt, a successful TV and radio career and appearances in no less than 13 musicals, Elaine has sung all over the world and for dignitaries including the Queen and the President of the United States.
Following on from the massive success of her first tour in 2016, Elaine Paige ‘In Concert’ comes to Venue Cymru in Llandudno for one night only on November 2nd.
YES Magazine’s Carly Roberts was thrilled to chat to the musical icon about the woman behind this critically acclaimed series of concerts.
Carly: It’s been a memorable week, you’ve just received an honorary degree from Hertfordshire University for your outstanding contribution to music and theatre. What does it mean to receive something like that?
EP: Yes I did, it was very exciting! To sit in St Alban’s Abbey along with all the graduates and be honoured in such a way, it was just wonderful. It was a beautiful setting and it felt quite a serious affair, actually quite emotional. It was a wonderful day and afterwards I celebrated with friends.
Carly: You’ve got a busy autumn ahead with your new series of concerts, how do you prepare for so many dates?
EP: I’ve started preparing now. I get fit by doing dance classes, going to the gym and making sure I get enough exercise every day to build up my stamina. I have to get in shape because travelling the country is quite tiring which is why, when I did my 50th Anniversary tour a couple of years ago, I decided I wouldn’t do a back to back tour again. So I came up with the idea of just doing weekends. I thought after 50 years of singing musical theatre songs, I could do something completely different and create a brand new show.
Carly: Do you have complete control over what goes into your concerts?
EP: Absolutely, but it took a lot of learning how to do it myself! In musical theatre you have everything provided for you and you just have to work to make your character come alive.
Planning the concerts is all down to me: what I want to sing, what kind of band I want, what atmosphere I want to create. For example, I’ve gone for a small band because I want it to be an intimate evening. I want to connect with the audience and reminisce about this period of time in our history. Not only do I tell stories that rekindle my memories but, hopefully, the audience’s too. It will remind them of their youth, many who’ve grown up with me.
Carly: So a lot more goes into these concerts than people might imagine?
EP: It takes about a year. First of all you have to come up with the idea, then you’ve got to research the music and how that music links to your own personal life. The songs have got to mean something to me but they’ve also got to suit my voice.
We went through a list of over 100 songs to find the right ones. It’s got to be meaningful, otherwise it doesn’t make any sense.
Carly: When it comes to your musical influences, who’s really inspired you to create your own concert?
EP: The idea came about when I was making an album with Phil Ramone in New York. He used to love to talk about all the artists he’d worked with and he asked me who I enjoyed listening to. Harry Nilsson, Randy Newman and Jim Webb were the writers of my era and I just adored their work, I loved the lyrics and the stories they told. And that’s really how the idea was born, it was out of that conversation.
Carly: What is it that makes you want to do more and keep going?
EP: I just don’t want to retire! That word doesn’t really come up in an actor’s life; you just keep on going, it’s in your blood somehow. The idea of not doing it ever again would be too awful to contemplate.
Carly: You’re set to perform here for one evening only on November 2nd, what can your North Wales fans look forward to in anticipation of your arrival?
EP: The show celebrates the songwriters I love, such as Harry Nilsson, Randy Newman, Jim Webb, Burt Bacharach, Hal Davies, Lennon & McCartney… the list goes on and on! It’s the music that’s been the soundtrack to all our lives, not just mine.
I enjoyed it so much last year that we’re doing it again but this time going to all the places I wasn’t able to visit last year. I’ve tweaked the show a bit. I’ve added some more songs – my favourite songs from the 60s and 70s – but I’m doing all the hits people love as well.