She is the undisputed First Lady of Musical Theatre, but there are many other strings to her bow.

Even those who never met her acquaintance when Elaine Paige commanded on stage as Eva Peron in Evita, or were enchanted when she created the role of Grizabella in the original production of Cats, delivering the pitch purr-fect song Memory, spend time with her on a Sunday morning.

Her weekly Radio 2 programme, cunningly titled Elaine Paige on Sunday, attracts some £2.3 million listeners weekly.
Oh, and she's an actress and a producer to boot. Elaine is exceptional.
She returns to Milton Keynes on Monday, November 13 as part of a new series of Autumn concerts.

But it won't be a standard show: "I thought it might make a change to sing something other than music theatre songs," she explains, at the mid-way point during a flurry of interviews.

"I thought 'What other music do I love? And I came up with the idea of visiting some of the songs I grew up listening to as a young girl," she said.
"More importantly, I wanted to give the lyricists and composers credit, because we listen to songs all the time, but never know who wrote the lyrics..."

Contrary to what you might think, the process wasn't an easy one!
"In the end it really wasn't," she says, "I started out with a list of 100s of songs, but when you get around the computer and start working on them as I did, one quickly discovers some of the songs are so definitive by the person you remember singing them in the first place you think 'No, my my voice doesn't do it any justice,' or you can't make it your own.

"I was looking for songs with lyrics that would speak for me, and that suit my voice - because I am never going to be Tina Turner!"

Several months later and she is good to go. But fans don't need to worry about missing out on perfect Paige moments.
"I've got to give my audience what they want too, of course, which is these theatrical big belting ballads..."

So aside from famous numbers by writers including Paul Simon and Carole King (to name but two), you'll still be treated to the show tunes you know and love.
But it'll not be loud: "I didn't want it to be lots of fancy frocks and a big extravaganza. I wanted it to be an intimate kind of a show."

It's not a debut visit for Elaine to the new city - she came here with a Feydeau farce some years ago. She stayed in the new city while delivering the role: "It's a very strange place, isn't it?" she asks, as much as states, talking about the place we call home.

Years ago, protecting her voice was paramount - vocal rest during the day was standard - not least seeing as she was tackling some of theatre's most famous, and demanding, roles.

Dairy was out, chocolate was banished, but she stocked up on protein.
Nowadays, she doesn't need to be so strict with herself, as touring, generally speaking, is an annual thing.
A decent amount of warm-up vocal exercises, and she's ready to go. And Elaine hopes you'll be there to greet her when the curtain rises.

"If you like what I've done in the past, you won't be disappointed," she promises.
"It will take you down memory lane and hopefully bring back some memories for yourself through the music. If you like contemporary music, and if you want to hear some of the great songs you used to hear on the radio from the late 1960's through the 70's and the 80's, then come along and sing with me."

Elaine promises to sprinkle the set with anecdotes too, sharing stories and the reason behind the song choices.
"It's not just a bunch of covers. It's more than that," she promises.

Elaine's voice has wowed on some of the most famous stages in the world - from the Sydney Opera House to the Bolshoi in Moscow and the White House in Washington.
But few things compare next to an intimate night at Windsor Castle...
"That was pretty special, performing for the Queen, because it was a personal thing and a small evening, especially for Her Majesty and the family.
"That's right up there," she says with certainty, "I'm a big, big admirer. I think she is just amazing..."

To book tickets for the Milton Keynes Theatre date click here


Interview: Sammy Jones



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