In a 40-year career that’s seen her play such iconic roles as Eva Peron in Evita and Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard, British musical star Elaine Paige has amassed an understandably large swag of awards. But in amongst the OBEs and the Olivier Awards stands one particularly rare honour — in 1984, Paige was awarded the Rear of the Year, a trophy given to the UK personality whose buttocks are deemed the most outstanding of the previous 12 months.
Twenty-five years on, the mere mention of the award draws a long, hearty laugh from Paige, who spoke to Sydney Star Observer while holidaying in the south of France (a befittingly glamorous location for the woman dubbed ‘the grand dame of musicals’).
“That award’s got a special place in my heart,” she cackled. “I’ve still got it — it’s in my bathroom. It’s a bit old and battered now.”
We’ll have to assume she’s referring to the award, because the Paige posterior is holding up well enough for the star to venture to our shores this month for a one-woman show, Celebrating a Life on Stage.
“It’s an autobiographical concert celebrating my 40 years in the industry. It takes the audience on a journey from my first West End performance in Hair, right up to now. There are a lot of songs from musicals I’ve been in over the years, some new songs I’ve never performed before, all intertwined with anecdotes about people and places I’ve experienced along the way,” Paige explained.
And the four-decade milestone — that’s one she’s obviously quite happy to broadcast?
“To be honest, it’s snuck up on me. Once I realised, I went into shock at the fact that I’m no longer the ingenue and I’m becoming the old veteran — it’s terrible!”
One of theatre’s more straight-talking stars, Paige has earned a reputation for being unapologetically uninterested in other performers’ interpretations of the roles she’s played — she famously never viewed the film version of Evita to see how Madonna measured up.
“When you’ve played something for a long time, you become territorial and possessive about it — it’s yours,” she said firmly.
“It would be a bit like having a child and the day comes when that child gets married — they’re lost to you, they’re not yours any more. It’s the same with playing parts. When I first finish a role, I go through a slight grieving process — it’s like losing a friend, and it takes time to adjust to them not being around any more.”
It must be nice then to resurrect such ‘friends’ in Celebrating a Life on Stage.
“Absolutely. This time, I’ll actually be wearing some of the costumes I wore in these original productions. I’ve kept them all these years. It means I am truly able to get back into these characters again, and I’ve got to say, it’s wonderful to be back there.”

info: Elaine Paige plays the State Theatre on October 31. Tickets through Ticketmaster.

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