Ken Page tells the Ken Page story onstage
By Kathleen Allen
Arizona Daily Star
Tucson, Arizona Published: 04.17.2009
Ken Page's life could be a book.
And it may, someday. But right now he's wrapping up his life in "Page by Page," which Invisible Theatre brings to Tucson this weekend.
Page, an actor and singer, is just 55, but he's done a whole lotta living in those years.
"It basically traces my life from St. Louis and moving to New York and on to the years in Paris," said Page, talking on phone from New York, where he had just opened in "Happiness" at the Lincoln Center.
Ken Page originated the Broadway role of Old Deuteronomy in "Cats."
Courtesy of Invisible Theatre
Page was at the beginnings of some pretty amazing theatrical events: He made his Broadway debut in "The Wiz," an all-black version of "The Wizard of Oz"; he was in the original Broadway cast of "Cats," playing the central figure of Old Deuteronomy; he was Nicely-Nicely in the all-black revival of "Guys and Dolls"; and he provided the voice of the Oogie Boogie in Tim Burton's "The Nightmare Before Christmas."
As if that weren't enough, in 2000 he developed his cabaret and has been performing it, streamlining it and improving it since then.
Page had long been doing cabaret acts, but he said that wasn't what he wanted to do with "Page by Page."
"I wanted to find a compromise and educate the audience about myself, and about my life," he said.
"I've had these amazing things happen."
As it turns out, many of the songs he's sung in cabarets and shows weave nicely into his life.
He recalled opening night of "Ain't Misbehavin'," when the energy was high and everybody seemed to have a friend.
"I realized I always was by myself," he said. "At the end of the evening, I ended up sitting on the edge of my bed, alone."
The experience, to Page, echoed the title song of the play. He sang softly into the phone:
"No one to talk with / All by myself / No one to walk with / But I'm happy on the shelf . . ."
(A moment please: Having Ken Page sing to you over the phone is a thrilling experience that needs to be savored.)
He added another anecdote, this one from "Cats":
"At the same time as 'Cats,' the AIDS epidemic was taking hold," he said.
"Many, many people, including members of the cast, died. The song 'Memories,' then, meant something completely different. It began to be a narrative from my life."
"Page by Page" has him reading from a book, ostensibly containing the chapters of his life.
In truth, there is no book. But there could be before long.
"I have started on the book, but in a weird way it's not the time," he said.
It shouldn't be too difficult: "Page by Page" is the foundation of the book; he'll just have to fill it out.
And the book, like the show he's bringing to the Old Pueblo, will have the same message:
"You never know what's coming for you," Page said. "So just live. Embrace everything."
If you go
"Page by Page"
• Written by and starring: Ken Page.
• Presented by: Invisible Theatre.
• When: 8 p.m. Saturday; 3 p.m. Sunday.
• Where: The Berger Performing Arts Center, 1200 W. Speedway.
• Tickets: $42; a half-hour before curtain, tickets are half-price, subject to availability.
• Reservations and information: 882-9721.
• Running time: 2 hours, with one intermission.
Contact reporter Kathleen Allen at email@example.com or 573-4128.