Each evening from the first preview on August 7, 2011 to the closing performance on January 22, 2012, audiences at Broadway’s Marquis Theatre were treated to the sight of one of the First Ladies of the London stage making a rare appearance across the Atlantic belting one of Stephen Sondheim’s most famous songs. The show was Follies, the star was Elaine Paige, and the song was “I’m Still Here.” Now, that anthem of showbiz survival provides the title for the superstar actress-singer’s new live CD/DVD release on Cherry Red’s Strike Force Entertainment label. I’m Still Here: Live at the Royal Albert Hall preserves the October 22, 2014 celebration of Paige’s 50 years as an entertainer, with the Sunset Boulevard and Evita star joined by the BBC Concert Orchestra and guest vocalist Garðar Thór Cortes.
Though Paige made her West End debut in the 1968 London production of Hair, her breakthrough came when composer Andrew Lloyd Webber, lyricist-librettist Tim Rice, and director Harold Prince cast her as the stage’s very first Eva Peron in Evita. Her fiery performance of the score’s now-standard “Don’t Cry for Me, Argentina,” undiminished by the passage of time, opens I’m Still Here and introduces its survey of the actress-singer’s career onstage and on record singing the songs of Lloyd Webber, Sondheim, and many others with whom she has been associated.
In addition to the Evita anthem, Paige revisits highlights from her stage appearances including Hair (“Good Morning Starshine”), Cats (“Memory”), Chess (“I Know Him So Well,” “Nobody’s Side”), Piaf (a medley of “Milord” and “Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien,” plus “If You Love Me”) Sunset Boulevard (“The Perfect Year,” “As If We Never Said Goodbye,” and the climactic “With One Look”) and of course, Follies (the title track, rewritten with special lyrics by Anthony Drewe of Honk! and Mary Poppins fame). Paige also looks back to a hit album from her successful record career (“Radio Gaga” and “My Melancholy Blues” from 1988’s The Queen Album), and brings her powerful voice to other Broadway (The Gershwins’ “Summertime” from Porgy and Bess, Frank Loesser’s “Luck Be a Lady” from Guys and Dolls) and pop (The Beatles’ “In My Life”) standards on this bravura retrospective.
Icelandic tenor Garðar Thór Cortes makes three appearances throughout the set, duetting with Paige on Andrew Lloyd Webber, Don Black and Christopher Hampton’s “The Perfect Year” from Sunset Boulevard and singing that musical’s dramatic title song solo; he also takes a solo turn on the appropriately-named “Anthem” from the Tim Rice/Benny Andersson/Bjorn Ulvaeus score to Chess.
The setlist here is identical on both the CD and DVD except for that the DVD adds the Overture as well as three bonus selections filmed at Hedsor House in Hedsor, Buckinghamshire for the original cinema screening event of the concert: Lloyd Webber and Rice’s “I Don’t Know How to Love Him” from Jesus Christ Superstar; Rice, Luc Plamondon and Michel Berger’s “Only the Very Best” and Jimmy Webb’s “Grow Young.” The latter two tracks were originally recorded by Paige for her 1991 Love Can Do That album. The trailer for the cinema screening is also included as a bonus feature on the DVD.
This celebratory release is housed in a Super Jewel Box and features a booklet with a brief note from Paige and full credits. Note that the DVD, while Region 0, is in PAL format so it will not be playable on NTSC DVD players. (However, it may be able to be viewed on one’s computer.) Elaine Paige’s showstopping celebration of 50 years, I’m Still Here: Live at the Royal Albert Hall, is available now at the links below!
- Don’t Cry For Me Argentina
- Overture (DVD only)
- Come Rain or Come Shine
- Luck Be a Lady
- Good Morning Starshine
- I’m Still Here
- The Perfect Year – with Garðar Thór Cortes
- Sunset Boulevard – Garðar Thór Cortes
- As If We Never Said Goodbye
- Radio Gaga
- My Melancholy Blues
- I Know Him So Well
- Nobody’s Side
- Anthem – Garðar Thór Cortes
- In My Life
- Piaf Medley (Milord/Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien)
- If You Love Me (Hymne a L’amour)
- With One Look
- The Curtain Falls
- I Don’t Know How to Love Him (Bonus – DVD only)
- Only the Very Best (Bonus – DVD only)
- Grow Young (Bonus – DVD only)
- Cinema Trailer (DVD only)