Ian Bartholomew has got particular reason for feeling fondly towards Chichester.
The last time, Ian – born in Portsmouth and brought up in Gosport – was at the Festival Theatre was Hysteria in the Minerva.
‘It was directed by Loveday Ingram, who is now my wife. We had met a couple of times, we started rehearsals and during the run of the show, we became an item. We have now got two young children, aged eight and 11.’
Hysteria wasn’t his first time at Chichester, however. He first trod the boards in the city in 1977 in Follow The Star as very much the local lad.
‘I was brought up in Gosport. I was at Brune Park and did a lot of amateur stuff when I was in Gosport. I was at the Thorngate Halls. You’ve got to start somewhere!
‘I also sang in the choir at St Mary’s, Alverstoke. I was doing a lot of solo stuff. I did Bach’s Oratorio at Holy Trinity Church (Gosport) at the age of 11. There were three soloists from the Royal Academy… and me! I was a boy treble, and they needed a treble voice, and the choirmaster at the time drafted me in. The leader of the orchestra was going to be my head of music the following year when I started at Brune Park and she asked if I was interested in doing a bit of acting. I played the little sweep in the opera by Benjamin Britten.
‘I started doing lots of things, and I have never stopped. I decided what I wanted to do when I was 14. I was very fortunate in that respect, to know what you wanted to do, to get the chance to do it and to be still doing it now.
‘I trained at the Guildford School of Acting.
‘It was mainly a dance school or had been and then started to become more of a drama school.
‘About that time they were experimenting with foundation courses and so. They provided one of the first musical theatre courses.’
Now the focus is Half A Sixpence and a happy return to Chichester.
‘The book is pretty much completely new. A lot of the original music has been adapted and added to, and the thrust of the story is slightly different now.
‘It’s very much now a modern take on a classic musical but adhering to the original feel. I don’t think the musical was ever really as much of a success as they thought it might be, and I don’t think it has been done that often.
‘Tommy Steele (in the film version) was such a big name that it sort of stood on his persona and popularity, but the show itself has not really stood the test of time, I suspect.
‘There were intrinsic problems with the script, but (producer) Cameron Mackintosh has always had a burning ambition to make it work and this new version is rather fabulous.
‘What is great is that everybody cares about it. Everybody is working towards the show. There are no egos.’
Chichester Festival Theatre
July 14-September 3