Most of all, she is forever the pocket rocket with the big voice who became a star overnight as Eva Peron. When she won the role, she had already been a struggling actress for more than a decade and was on the point of giving it all up to train as a nursery school teacher.“I just wasn’t really earning enough to live, so I was thinking maybe I just don’t have what it takes to get the parts,” she says. “Meeting Dustin Hoffman was a pivotal moment….” Hang on! To mark her career milestone, a one-off concert at the Royal Albert Hall last October has been filmed especially for screening in cinemas.Though it has been done with opera and with National Theatre productions, this is the first concert- for-the-screen by a musical theatre artiste.
Not only did it make her a star, it also brought her the most important relationship of her life. I was lucky enough to be around when Tim and Andrew [Lloyd Webber] were reinventing the musical and we all grew up together. When we meet up it’s like family.”There is another man in her life now. He’s not really in the business, which is maybe why it works so well.” Is she in love?
For 11 years, Paige had a very public affair with lyricist Tim Rice who was married with two children. It was wonderful but it was another life.”Are they still friends? “Probably.”She has little time for those shows in which Lloyd Webber searches for his next - well, his next Elaine Paige.“You can’t learn all that you need to know in 16 weeks.”Yet it was she who inspired another would-be singer to try her luck on another reality show.
The younger daughter of an estate agent and a milliner, she grew up in Barnet on the London- Hertfordshire border and was “12 or 13” when she realised she had a good voice.“My mates at Secondary Modern would get me to belt out the hymns at assembly.
They’d be going, ‘Go for it, Bick.’My nickname was Bick because my real surname is Bickerstaff.”Then the music teacher got her into the school choir and started giving her little solo lines which was “like a light bulb going on in my head.”When she was 15, her parents took her to a well-known singing teacher who told her she was good enough to be an opera singer.“But then we didn’t do anything about it and it was forgotten.” Instead she went to the Aida Foster Theatre School.
But in 1990 she ended it when she realised he was never going to leave his wife for her. Suddenly the room feels colder.“Why would you ask that? Just before she blew everyone away with her voice on Britain’s Got Talent, Susan Boyle famously told Cowell and co that she aspired to be like Elaine Paige.
They have since sung together and Paige says she can hear similarities in their tone and phrasing.“It’s very flattering if someone says you’ve inspired them and I’m very happy that Susan has her dream. ” With homes in London and France – and as her decision to scale down work would indicate - Paige is hardly on her uppers.‘She is a girl with no experience of anything to do with theatrics, the music business, or art in any way. Asked if she thought her success would last, Miss Paige replied: ‘That’s a good question. Longevity is gained through knowledge, experience and effort so it will remain to be seen.‘She has done terribly well to be a major star overnight with You Tube.’ But Miss Boyle’s popularity on the Internet has translated into three million album sales, making I Dreamed A Dream the fastest selling debut album for a female artist. ‘When I started, You Tube didn’t exist but even then with 15 years of experience prior to my success with Evita it was difficult, so I admire the way she handled her sudden success.Jealousy is not an attractive trait: Miss Paige, who boasts 40 years in showbusiness and a £12million fortune, has haughtily dismissed the instant success of the Britain’s Got Talent runner-up as ‘a virus that swept the world’.When asked if she was happy about what the 48-year-old Scottish spinster had achieved, Miss Paige replied: ‘I don’t particularly feel any pride for her – I’m sure she is proud of what she has done.’ Speaking at the South Bank Awards, she added: ‘It’s all about turning someone into an immediate celebrity at the expense of longevity and working hard and experience.As she was flicking through the phone book, she decided on “page” with an added ‘i.’Her twenties saw her playing small and lead roles in several musicals, including appearing naked in Hair.