REVIEW: Elaine Paige In Concert

Everything the fans could have wanted

By Adam Tonking

It’s Elaine Paige. ELAINE PAIGE!

A surprising number of friends to whom I bragged to about seeing this concert weren’t familiar with her. For those who were not fortunate enough to grow up with her records on high rotation in their homes, she is the Queen of British Music Theatre, particularly around the 1980s when she originated leading roles in shows such as Cats, Evita and Chess.

Her recordings of hit songs from these shows are often among the first, the highest selling, and the best. Even though this was her most celebrated era, she’s repeatedly won plaudits for her performances from the late 1960s, all the way to her most recent role in Follies.

For a veteran performer, one tends to expect some deterioration of vocal talent. In this concert of her most classic songs, Paige delivers perfectly on numbers she has been performing for three decades, as fresh and lovely as those recordings I grew up with. Her delightful presence on stage had the oldest members of the audience cheering like teenagers, as she showed us how “I Dreamed A Dream” should be done, as she channelled Piaf even when sung in English, as she proved me wrong in that the awful songs I detest from Sunset Boulevard could be the most moving and incredible moments in an already spectacular evening.

Any complaints I have are purely selfish: I wanted more and more and more. I wanted to call out requests, I wanted her to throw in a few Sondheim numbers, I wanted her to stay on stage and sing back-to-back for me for the entire two hours. Selfish, particularly when her onstage band were so wonderful, and especially when her supporting singer Nic Kyle was ridiculously good. Giving Paige a moment to change costumes, Kyle performed a few numbers, and completely astounded us all with his rich tone, gigantic range, and accomplished performance. His rendition of “Gethsemane” was mind-blowing.

Clearly, I cannot say enough good things about this concert. And from the way the audience leapt to their feet and applauded while Paige took bow after bow, I’m not alone. Paige is a music theatre icon, and a successful recording artist. The chance to see her perform live is not to be missed. This was her only show in Melbourne, but head to Sydney, Brisbane or Canberra to catch her before she leaves Australia.

Elaine Paige performs at the State Theatre in Sydney on Friday 26th October, tickets through Ticketmaster 136 100; at the Canberra Theatre in Canberra on Sunday 28th October, tickets through Canberra Ticketing 02 6275 2700; and at QPAC Concert Hall in Brisbane on Monday 29th October, tickets through QTIX 136 246.