Daughter, sister, friend, actress, singer, dancer, international recording star, producer, T.V. and radio presenter and first lady of hit musicals, Elaine Paige has done it all and this year is celebrating fifty fabulous years in show business . . . and she’s coming to Ireland, writes Amanda Bell
A star was born on the 5th of March, 1948, to Eric and Irene Bickerstaff from Barnett, North London.
The precious baby girl cradled in her mother’s arms was called Elaine Jill Bickerstaff.
She would go on to some day be known as the first lady of musicals and become a worldwide star, though they could not have known this at the time.
Elaine was doted on by all the family especially her older sister Marion, whom she is still very close to today.
Barnett is filled with many fond memories for Elaine.
Her dad worked as an estate agent and was also a drummer who played in a dance band at weekends.
Her mum was a gifted milliner who loved to sing as she worked on many beautiful creations.
To this day Miss Paige cannot pass a hat shop by without stopping to take a look.
Being surrounded by music, fashion and the family’s interest in the theatre was to become a big influence on her growing up.
During secondary school the talented young girl enjoyed playing sport and had a very keen interest in singing and drama.
Elaine loved to play tennis at school and at one stage thought she might like take it up professionally. That was until someone at school made a joke and said “you won’t see over the net Elaine” and that put paid to that idea.
Even then Elaine was a petite beauty. She is just 4ft 11” in height. The wonderful thing about Elaine Paige is she doesn’t let a thing like size hold her back and laughed it off and has done ever since.
In fact her size was to lead to her getting some prize roles during her career, as many of the characters she played were diminutive in stature also.
Elaine has the most wonderful sense of humour and she herself is the first to crack a joke about how tall she is. Never one to be deterred, Elaine still plays tennis today and loves it.
During her final years at school her career ideas where changing as soon as she discovered drama classes. After getting a role in the school production of a Mozart comic opera, she completely threw herself in to the role, so much so that when she sang the mezzo soprano role of Bastienne she added in her own extra piece of drama for good measure.
During the sad part of the song she sank to her knees and sobbed for real. The audience was mesmerised. Elaine’s parents were in the audience too and they knew their daughter should be encouraged in her talent. It was soon after that outstanding performance that she was enrolled at the Aida Foster Theatre School.
There she excelled as a student in song, dance and drama. After finishing drama school she auditioned for many roles and, as any actor will tell you, there is no such thing as overnight success. It takes time, as Elaine found out.
She acted in commercials, was one of the many dancers in the film Oliver and also was in many chorus lines in many shows until she got her first break. This experience was to stand to her greatly.
The Roar of the Greasepaint – The Smell of the Crowd was her first big audition. She was naturally nervous and still very young, so it was rather overwhelming standing there alone singing into the darkness of an empty theatre whilst knowing somewhere sitting in one of rows of seats, was a director listening to you and watching your every move on stage.
The song she sang didn’t go as well as she wanted and the director called “next”. However Elaine and her agent knew the part was made for her and with a bit more confidence and practice she could certainly nail it.
The problem was she already auditioned for the part using her real name Elaine Bickerstaff, as that was what she was known as then. So a new stage name was needed so she could reapply. That night Elaine flicked through the phonebook looking for inspiration. Then she realised what she was doing i.e. turning ‘pages. So she did a spelling change on the name Page and added an i.
From that night on Elaine Bickerstaff became Elaine Paige. This was to be her new stage name forever after. The next day it was Elaine Paige who auditioned for the role she had tried the day before, but with new found self-confidence and a well-practiced piece, the song was a winner and won her the part.