Q & A with Elaine Paige, who starred as 'Carlotta' in the Broadway revival of Sondheim and Goldman's Follies, directed by Eric Schaeffer, which played at the Marquis Theatre from 7 Aug 2011 - 22 Jan 2012.
Place of birth?
Barnet in Hertfordshire which is just north of London.
You now live in?
Chelsea in London.
Did you go to training school, if so which one?
Yes I did. I went to the Ada Foster Stage School in Golders Green, North London.
Your first stage performance was?
At school is was Handel’s Messiah, as a professional it was a tour of The Roar of the Greasepaint – The Smell of the Crowd, and my West End debut was Hair!
Career highlight to date?
That’s always such a hard question to answer as I usually choose the show I’m currently in, but I suppose I would have to say creating the role of Eva Peron in Evita.
What roles would you most like to play?
I’d love to play Margo Channing in All About Eve.
What's the best advice you have ever received?
‘Don’t forget to take time to enjoy the moment.’ I’ve done some wonderful things and always make sure I take a moment to look around and remember.
What has been your most embarrassing moment on stage?
I was in Hair and we were all naked and my next move was to grab the guy next to me’s hand … but as I’m just under 5 foot tall and wasn’t looking …… yep! You guessed it! His hand is not what I grabbed!!!
What is the most annoying part about your job?
Nothing. If you find anything about this wonderful business annoying then you shouldn’t be in it. I’m so fortunate to be doing what I love and hopefully the audiences can see that.
Briefly tell us how you become involved with Follies
I was making an album in New York with Phil Ramone and my agent called to say the Kennedy Center would like to know if I’d be interested in playing Carlotta Campion in Follies. I jumped at the chance as I’m a huge Sondheim fan and really enjoyed playing Mrs. Lovett in Sweeney Todd at the Lincoln Center a few years ago.
Briefly tell us about the character you play in Follies?
She has a wonderful spirit, a joie de vivre. She has courage. She's had her ups and downs, she's seen it all, but she won’t be beaten by life's struggles. She has a positive way of viewing life: 'Oh, well, that didn't work. Next!' Carlotta's song, “I'm Still Here,” is a paean to survival.
If you had not become a performer, what might you have done instead?
I wanted to be a ballroom dancer! I had wanted to join the local formation team when I was young, but then went to a new school, met Ann Hill the head of music and she encouraged me to sing and the rest, as they say, is history.
Who are your favorite actors/actresses?
There are so many good actors, but I've always admired Alec Guinness, Anthony Hopkins, Dustin Hoffman, Al Pacino, Anne Bancroft, Katharine Hepburn, Meryl Streep, Gwyneth Paltrow, Marion Cotillard … Oh, I could go on & on.
If you could meet anyone in the world dead or alive who would it be and what would you say to them?
I would love to meet Edith Piaf. Having researched her life and played her in the West End for several months it would be fascinating to actual speak with the great lady. She was so passionate about everything in life. I’d want to know what it was like, those early days, singing on the streets of Paris, and the freedom the streets gave her where she perfected her art.
Favorite after-show haunts?
I love Sardis, and the other night a dear friend of mine took me to a wonderful restaurant on Central Park South called Marea. I’ll be going back there again! And I seem to spend a lot of time at Bar Centrale… it’s so handy.
What was the last Broadway show you saw?
Its been very busy with Follies since I arrived in New York but I managed to get to see fellow Brit Simon Russell Beale in Simon Stephen’s 1998 play Bluebird at the Atlantic Stage 2 downtown. Absolutely brilliant! He plays a troubled taxi driver who listens to his 'fares’ stories and then divulges a disturbing one of his own … It has lots of London place names and references so it made me feel a tad homesick.
Favorite TV programs?
I love “Strictly Come Dancing” (or “Dancing with the Stars” as you call it), and “Downton Abbey” is wonderful. I like a good drama on TV, something that keeps my attention with a good script and good actors.
Do you have any hobbies?
Tennis, tennis, tennis!! I love it – playing and watching. I’m an avid fan. I plan my life around Wimbledon! No concerts, no work during those two weeks! I’m also a member of Queens Tennis Club in London and play regularly. That’s what I’m missing most about being away at the moment.
Do you have any superstitions?
All the usual theatre ones … no whistling, no mention of Shakespeare’s Scottish play and don’t even think about coming near me with a cold or a sore throat … oh that’s not a superstition that’s a rule! Ha ha!
If you were stranded on a desert island, what three items would you take with you?
Hair straighteners (I have naturally curly hair which I’m not keen on), teabags for a good cup of tea and a good pair of heels! Preferably Christian Louboutin!
What are your future plans?
I’m about to make a second CD of duets. And, I have a concert planned for Jazz at Lincoln Center early next year. I’m looking to do some concert dates in the US, Australia and the Far East along with continuing with my weekly BBC Radio 2 programme “Elaine Paige on Sunday.”