On May 1, Elaine Paige, the actress who originated the roles of Eva Peron in Evita and Grizabella in Cats could likely be nominated for her first Tony Award. Despite a lauded stage career that goes back nearly 45 years, the British actress has only been on Broadway twice (and not in those shows), having done most of her work in London’s West End. Her Broadway debut was in Sunset Boulevard, and although she played the lead role of Norma Desmond, she was ineligible for a Tony nomination, as she was a replacement. However, her return to Broadway last fall as the saucy stage and film star Carlotta who belts out “I’m Still Here” in the revival of Follies has her on everyone’s frontrunner list for a nod for Best Featured Actress in a Musical. As she readied to begin rehearsals for Follies’ Los Angeles run, Paige telephoned Stage Rush to discuss chumming it up with her Follies costars, being Andrew Lloyd Webber’s go-to gal, and what a Tony nomination would mean to her.
You’ve taken this show to three locations now. How does that feel?
Here we are in LA for the third and final installment. It’s extraordinary. It feels like we’re on tour, really. It’s all very unexpected, of course, because initially it was just going to be in Washington, DC. To then be told we were going to New York was a wonderful surprise. Now to be here in LA is even better. It keeps on rolling.
What’s going on with this production? Has anything different? How’s it going with Victoria Clark, who is replacing Bernadette Peters?
I haven’t yet started rehearsals; I start on Friday. One thing I know is different is that the leading lady, Bernadette Peters, is not in this production out here. It’s a young lady by the name of Victoria Clark, who I’ve yet to meet. That will make a different complexion on the piece. Sometimes when somebody new comes into something, I think that could be a breath of fresh air.
- Ron Raines gives the rundown on each of his Follies costars
- The best performances of the Suites By Sondheim benefit concert
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What do you think, Rushers? Who is your favorite character in Follies? Do you see where Ron Raines is coming from with his assessments of his castmates? Were you at the Suites By Sondheim concert? Who do you think gave the best performance? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!
In this season’s hit revival of Follies, Ron Raines plays the sun in which all orbiting characters collide. As Ben Stone, one
fourth of two married couples crumbling under the reminiscence of a showgirl reunion at a Vaudevillian theater about to be demolished, he holds the fates of everyone in his hands. Will he stay with his wife, Phyllis (Jan Maxwell) or choose his old flame, Sally (Bernadette Peters)? Raines, previously of the long-running soap opera Guiding Light, sat down with Stage Rush to discuss what it’s like to hold all the cards as Ben, Maxwell’s recent traffic accident, and the upcoming cast recording.
How did the recording of the cast album go?
It was terrific. The thing is, we did it on our days off, so we were kind of exhausted. You just click in your head that you’ve got to do it. Of course, you do nothing else [prior to the recording]. That dinner that you usually have with someone Sunday night; you go home instead.
Can you give us a sneak peek at the recording? What can we expect?
I hear there’s a lot more dialogue and story connection. Some of the numbers are really set up. They come out of the scene; which is good, I hope. They tried to connect the numbers with more dialogue, more story.
How did you find out Jan Maxwell had been in a car accident between shows on October 29?
I was sitting right there, reclined. [Points to dressing room lounge chair] My dresser, Danny, said that she had been hit by a car. Immediately, you hear, ‘Hit by a car!’ But he said she was aright, that she was upstairs with the physical therapist. So I knew she wasn’t dead! I knew they didn’t haul her off in an ambulance. They said everything’s alright, whatever that is.
How did the cast react, as a whole?
When we all found out about it, we were genuinely concerned about Jan. Everyone really rallied around her understudy, who was literally being pushed onto the stage, without any rehearsal. In those kinds of moments, you really find out the integrity of the company you’re in.
Early in the show’s previews, Follies was performed without an intermission. Did you enjoy that style or was it exhausting?
I don’t think we were as exhausted as the audience was. We got out earlier. The show is paced, but by the time we got to the “Loveland” sequence, the audience members that were fanatics loved it without the intermission. But the general public, who didn’t know, they were like, ‘We need a break.’ The audience just needed that respite with an intermission. It was fine for me.
VIDEO: Ron Raines on the time Stephen Sondheim came knocking on his door.
If there’s a lesson to learn from Follies, it’s “Don’t look back.” Because if you do, there’s only a mess there. Featuring a fearsome foursome of Bernadette Peters, Jan Maxwell, Danny Burstein, and Ron Raines, this revival of Stephen Sondheim and James Goldman’s musical follows a group of former showgirls who gather for a reunion at the theater where they once basked in the spotlight before it’s demolished into a parking lot. What seems to be an innocent trip down memory lane exposes the cracks of marriage and the open wounds of regret for the two main couples.
The No. 1 Reason To See Follies: Bernadette Peters’ performance of “In Buddy’s Eyes” Read more