Also see Ann's review of Priscilla Queen of the Desert
There was a bit of a rough start with her rendition of "All That Jazz," but things went up from there, as the strength and power of her voice seemed to improve with each song. She didn't go in complete chronological order, but during the evening she presented a song from her West End debut (in the ensemble) in Hair, "Easy to be Hard." After short stints in Grease, Billy and The Boyfriend, her fame exploded in 1978 as she originated the title role in Andrew Lloyd Webber's Evita and won numerous awards for it; a robust "Don't Cry for Me Argentina" was incredible. As she states, "the bitch can belt." From Cats, she sang the well-known "Memory" and it was terrific to hear her in person on "I Know Him So Well," from a show she seems to have loved well, Chess.
Paige did a London revival production of Anything Goes, as Reno Sweeney, and treated us to a lovely "I Get a Kick Out of You." She was once again lauded again for her performance as Édith Piaf in the London revival of Piaf, and our evening benefitted from her strong delivery of "Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien." Paige was finally able to perform on Broadway in 1996 as she came into Sunset Boulevard for the end of its run. Giving us a few Norma Desmond "looks" during "As If We Never Said Goodbye" gave us an idea of what that performance might have been like.
Other songs were presented to illustrate points in the time line of her career. She spoke a little about being in the cast of the recent Follies revival (at the Kennedy Center and on Broadway), but did not sing the expected "I'm Still Here," which she sang in the show, though she did do a fun "Broadway Baby." McCartney & Lennon's "Yesterday" was her audition song for Evita; here, she reinterpreted the lyrics a bit, and the song seemed misplaced, coming right after a lengthy story about Dustin Hoffman and a song he wrote for her (not included in this appearance), which he presented along with encouragement for her to continue singing and not change careers (right before Evita). A true highlight of the evening was her "Mad About the Boy" (Noël Coward), in which she played the parts of three different women admiring the same man.
Elaine Paige is a lovely delightful, vibrant and superb cabaret performer. Her connection with the audience is strong and genuine. She has been presenting this show for a while, but there was no sense of it being something she had tired of. The Pittsburgh audience reaction made it clear they were charmed and thrilled to have her here (she had them at "yinz"), and I'm happy to say that her first U.S. tour ended on a very high note. Ms. Paige, come back anytime.
[Also see our interview with Elaine Paige on her appearance at New York's Town Hall.]
Elaine Paige appeared March 12 at Pittsburgh's Cabaret at Theater Square. She was accompanied by pianist and music arranger Christopher Marlowe.