British star Paige still here, in 'Follies'

MIKE CIDONI LENNOX AP Entertainment Writer Published:

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- After more than 40 years, Elaine Paige has arrived in Hollywood.

The star of London's West End plays Carlotta in "Follies," now playing at the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles.

"L.A. is a movie city," noted Paige in a recent interview. "We started out in the Kennedy Center in D.C. (opening May 2011), and then moved to New York (opening Sept. 12), and now here we are in L.A. So, we feel like we're 'Follies' on tour."

The show spins around former chorus members of the Ziegfeld-like Weismann's Follies, with Paige's Carlotta a film star who seems to have benefited from each of life's ups and downs.

As Carlotta, Paige belts out "I'm Still Here" and frequently brings down the house.

"I'm also able to say, after all that I've been through, in my own minor way, I can identify with the trials and tribulations that this song and this character tells," Paige said.

She learned she had breast cancer while doing "Sunset Boulevard" in London in the mid-1990s and had to wait two weeks for tests to see if the disease had spread.

"If you haven't been there, you don't know how frightening that is, because your own mortality is in the balance," she said.

That scare notwithstanding, the 64-year-old Paige has enjoyed a generally charmed life and career. In London's West End, akin to Broadway in the United States, she is nothing short of a superstar. She was the first actress to star in the Andrew Lloyd Webber-Tim Rice musical "Evita." She was the original Grizabella and the glamour cat in "Cats," introducing Lloyd Webber's haunting "Memory."

Paige admits she was bitter when a variety of issues, including Actors' Equity rules, kept her from making trips across the pond to head the original Broadway casts of "Evita," ''Cats" and "Chess," but that she's long gotten over it. She currently dates a tennis pro (but wouldn't name him), and said she is slowing down a bit to enjoy real life in addition to her work.

"Patti LuPone is known for her portrayal of Evita, because she was the first to do it here," Paige noted. "And Betty Buckley is known for 'Memory' and 'Cats,' because she was the first to do it here. "

"But I did it first," she said, with a big laugh.

The Center Theatre Group presents Elaine Paige in "Follies" through June 9 at the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles.

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Online:

http://www.centertheatregroup.org

http://www.elainepaige.com