Thursday, November 1, 2012


Canberra Theatre

28th October 2012

Reviewed by Bill Stephens

Elaine Paige commenced her career in 1968 as a member of the tribe in the musical “Hair”.  After appearing in leading roles in London productions of “Grease”, “Billy” and “The Boyfriend” she achieved International recognition playing Eva Peron in the Andrew Lloyd Webber/Tim Rice musical “Evita”.

 Her next musical was another Andrew Lloyd Webber/Tim Rice vehicle “Cats” and her recording of the hit song from this show “Memory” became the definitive version.  She has continued to star on stage ever since, appearing, and often originating the starring role,  in productions of  “Chess”, “Anything Goes”,, “Piaf”, “Sunset Boulevard”, “The King and I”, “Sweeney Todd”, “The Drowsy Chaperone” to name just a few. Her most recent appearance in a musical was in the 2012 Broadway revival of Stephen Sondheim’s “Follies”.

Elaine Paige last performed in Canberra in 2009 in a concert at the Royal Theatre celebrating her 40 year showbiz career, in which she reprised some of her most famous roles. Following its Canberra performance this concert was filmed in the State theatre in Sydney and released worldwide as a DVD.

Her 2012 concert,  this time in the slightly more intimate confines of the Canberra Theatre, was rather more forward looking , still retaining the same high production standards with excellent set and lighting,  superb seven piece band and outstanding musical arrangements. She also added a fine male singer in the person of handsome young New Zealander,  Nic Kyle, who already has his own impressive set of musical theatre credits, most recently as the star of a 2012 New Zealand production of “Jesus Christ Superstar”.

The addition of NIc Kyle opened the way for a different selection of  songs  from those shows with which Elaine Paige is most associated, and which of course her audience have come along to hear. It also allowed some selections from her latest CD album on which she sings duets with the likes of Barry Manilow, Dione Warwick, Olivier Newton-John, Neil Sedaka and Paul Anka.

Onstage for the full show, only leaving the stage briefly for the four costume changes, including one in which she wore an oufit from “Sunset Boulevarde” to present a richly dramatic version of “With One Look”. Among other selections from her stage shows was a dramatic version of “Oh What a Circus” from “Evita”, and a gorgeously sung solo version of “I Know Him So Well” from “Chess”. 

Sprinkled between these were the duets with Nic Kyle, some superbly arranged jazz standards and one or two beautiful ballads which had been specially written for her.  Nic Kyle contributed two excellent solos , a superb account of the John Farham song “Burn For You” and an electrifying performance of “Gethsemane” from “Jesus Christ Superstar”.

But mainly it was ELaine Paige centre stage, still looking as glamorous as her photos, singing her heart out, occasionaly chatting briefly and comfortably with her audience. Her voice still retains the distinctive silvery timbre so familiar from her recordings.  After over 40 years honing her craft on stage, Miss Paige knows how to give a star performance, and how to leave her audience with that unforgettable  "Memory" that she sings about so powerfully and passionately in her finale.