Having said that her 2014 tour was a farewell tour, Elaine Paige returned to the touring circuit last year for a ‘Stripped back’ series of performances. It’s an updated version of this show that Paige is now touring for a series of 20 dates across the UK. In many senses, the 2014 tour was indeed a ‘farewell’ of sorts to the musical theatre material that Paige is best known for. Opening with an enticing version of Pippin’s ‘Magic to do’, Paige quickly explains that the evening will concentrate on songs written during the period of her youth in the 1960s and 1970s especially her favourite songwriters Nilsson and Webb.

Paige’s 90-minute set saw the star relaxed and enthusiastic about the material – a lot of which is better suited to her voice than some of the rock numbers she has sung in the past. The songs are interspersed with stories and recollections of some of the people Paige has been fortunate to meet. Paige recalled being whisked away to dinner by Paul Simon after a performance of Evita, and a visit to Paul McCartney’s house, singing a selection of Beatles numbers from the Sgt Pepper album released 50 years ago. A return visit to her childhood home in Barnet some years ago was remembered with Jim Webb’s ‘If these walls could speak’. Carole King’s ‘One fine day’ worked well in a slowed-down version, while Paige also covered a lesser-known Burt Bacharach song (inspired by a recent West End favourite of hers, Close to You) and Tootsie’s ‘It might be you’.

For this tour, Paige is joined by the 5-piece John G Smith band, led by Smith on piano – they also provide a short supporting performance at the beginning of the evening. Paige says that she saw them perform and immediately asked them to be her new band – they’re integral to the whole feel of the show with some really strong arrangements and individual solos. Smith (former musical director of Beautiful) and guitarist James Graydon also featured on vocals and wrote some of the material for their solo spot. There’s such an informal and intimate feeling to the evening as a whole that it’s almost like watching Paige in cabaret – with Paige showing us LP covers from the period and sharing personal anecdotes, it’s a world away from the outrageous laugh of her radio persona.

Inevitably, it’s songs from the musicals that gain the biggest audience response, starting with a mid-show solo version of ‘I know him so well’, the duet with Barbara Dickson which Paige recorded in Sweden while Dickson recorded her part in the UK. Paige keeps us waiting until an encore section at the end of the show before giving her ‘Memory’ from Cats and ‘Don’t cry for me Argentina’ from Evita. The new arrangements suit both songs and neatly avoid the high notes. Surprisingly, an arrangement of ‘If you love me’ from Piaf was less successful as the faster, jazzy tempo didn’t really suit the nature of the lyric. Paige wisely saved the best of the musical bunch until last, with a final dramatic rendering of ‘With one look’ from Sunset Boulevard sending us out into the night with a reminder of the once first lady of musical theatre at her very best.