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Paige to bring 40 years of spectacular songs to Beijing

Updated: 2012-10-26 09:28
By Chen Nan (China Daily)
Paige to bring 40 years of spectacular songs to Beijing

Paige to bring 40 years of spectacular songs to Beijing

Following Elaine Paige's musical journey over the past 40 years, she admits, is like watching a drama.

From an unknown, unpromising singer standing 1.5 meters tall, she skyrocketed to fame in 1978 by performing the leading role of Eva Peron in Evita. From international successful roles in Cats and a Broadway debut with Sunset Boulevard to suffering breast cancer, the only certainty with the 64-year-old is that what's next is always a surprise.

One night in 1981, a big black cat followed her home from a dinner party, and she adopted it. The very next day, Andrew Lloyd Webber called her and said that she had won the role of Grizabella in the original production of Cats, which was a second peak of Paige's musical career. So she named the cat "Grizabella".

The singer, dubbed the First Lady of the British Musical Theater, will celebrate her 40th year onstage in November with a show in Beijing.

Having performed in Beijing twice before, she says she's happy to know that she has contributed to musical development in China, now that songs like Memory and Don't Cry For Me Argentina helped introduce Western musicals to the country.

"China is a great country, with many enthusiastic fans. I really enjoyed the time and performances in China," she says.

She will also sing with Fei Xiang, or Kris Phillips, the renowned Chinese-American pop icon and singer of musicals, who performed with Paige at The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber, a concert staged in the Great Hall of The People in Beijing in 2001.

"She is very professional and has always defined herself as a musicals singer," says Fei, who will also give a solo performance at Paige's concert in Beijing.

Paige says that it's always amazing to be another person singing and dancing onstage, and her real-life experiences helped.

"Most roles I have played are tragic, and my experience helps me do it better," she says.

Before she won the role in Evita in 1978, Paige was playing smaller parts onstage for 15 or so years. She didn't expect that she would win the audition for Evita because "everybody across the world wanted the role. It was a big thing to get the role".

But she was so ready. "I'd been working 15 years preparing for this, learning my craft. It was a perfect time for me. I was ready to play a leading role and show everyone what I could do," she says.

The life-changing experience also led her to know lyricist Tim Rice, with whom she had an 11-year affair throughout the 1980s.

But adjusting to all the attention that the role in Evita brought wasn't easy.

"It took me long to come to terms with the fact that I am famous. I often asked myself 'God! What happened?'" she says.

"Performing on the stage makes me forget pain and everything in real life. Also, crying in my own house will release and purify myself, help me dispel nervousness, fear and worry."

Paige has never married nor had children, and her life is still busy. She is doing a broadcast program, and her new album is coming out next year.

"I do not make myself a long-term plan, but every year I leave some time for being with my family and friends, or enjoying sunshine alone," she says.