Elaine Paige sings to Shanghai

(shanghai daily)
Updated: 2006-12-12 09:39

The First Lady of the British Musical Theater, Elaine Paige, is so popular that she will give a second concert on December 21 and says she wants to make sure the audience has a good time, writes Michelle Qiao.

Everything runs faster in China, and the popularity of musicals is spreading fast too. Shanghai audiences only saw their first live Broadway musical, "Les Miserables," at the Shanghai Grand Theater in 2002.

Four years later the concert of British musical diva Elaine Paige on December 20 is selling so well that the organizer is adding an extra show the next day to meet demand.

"I'll be singing a selection of songs that I think will appeal to the audience in Shanghai," says Paige, who lent her costumes for an exhibition in Shanghai in August.

She will sing highlights from her musical theater career such as "Don't Cry For Me Argentina" from "Evita," "Memory" from "Cats" that many people know and love; "Je Ne Regrette Rien" and "If You Loved Me" from the musical "Piaf" about the life of the great French singer Edith Piaf, and "I Know Him So Well" from the musical "Chess," which was a No. 1 hit for Paige and Barbara Dickson.

Yesterday, at her pre-concert press conference in Shanghai, Paige surprisingly, in her own word, received a gift - a chess made of tea leaves - from her Chinese fans, for her excellent performance in "Chess."

Paige was chosen by Hal Prince in 1978 to create the role of Eva Peron in the original production of "Evita" and she went on to sweep the boards with her award-winning performance in London's West End. In 1981 she starred in "Cats" when she played Grizabella in the original London production and thereby became the first actress to perform the classic song "Memory," one of her many hits. She won the title "The First Lady of British Musical Theater" and revisited this role in the television film and video of "Cats" in 1998.

"There is a story behind each song and I always like to perform my own interpretation of the song, the story and the character for instance, there is tragedy and excitement in the characters of Eva Peron, Norma Desmond and Edith Piaf, which is half the pleasure of performing such dramatic roles.

"But you can also find joy and laughter and happiness in many of the songs," says the diva, who has recently released a new album, "Essential Musicals," of her best-loved songs.

However, musical is not her choice at the very beginning. "I once wanted to be a tennis player or an interior designer," say the musical diva.

"I love it all - performing in concert. You have to be on your toes all the time and give the performance 110 percent of your energy and commitment. I suppose there's slightly more leeway with a live concert because you're in charge and you can slow the show down or quicken it up if you want to, plus you've got time to chat to the audience," she adds. "When you're onstage, it's a combined responsibility to entertain the audience and make sure they have a good time."

But before each performance, "protecting the voice is crucial," says Paige. "I usually drink lemon honey water and do not speak much."

Paige visited Shanghai for the first time when traveling with "The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber" in 2001.

"I am really looking forward to returning to the stimulating, interesting and vibrant city again," says Paige. "I love shopping in China and the last time I visited Beijing I managed to find a few pairs of lovely shoes - I have quite small feet so that was a successful shopping experience!

"I'm also quite a collector of interesting pieces of art, artifacts and fabrics from around the world, so I'm looking forward to doing some shopping in Shanghai and visiting one or two art galleries as well," Paige reveals.

Date: December 20-21, 7:30pm
Address: Shanghai Oriental Arts Center, 425 Dingxiang Rd, Pudong
Tickets: 100-1,500 yuan
Tel: 021-962-288