PICK Me Up Theatre regular Susannah Baines is returning to York from Columbus, Georgia, expressly to lead the company for Stephen Sondheim’s Follies from Friday to July 14.

Making her Pick Me Up debut alongside Susannah at the John Cooper Studio Theatre @41Monkgate will be Tracey Rea, no stranger to long-haul travel after spending 15 years as a principal dancer and singer on Olsen, Celebrity and P&O cruise liners, but 31 years down the line from her last acting role.

Susannah, whose favourite role was Mrs Lovett in Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd for Pick Me Up, has been in the United States since March, accompanying her husband. “His work is taking him there for a year but I said playing Phyllis in Follies was the deal breaker for me! So I’ve been back here in York since Bank Holiday Monday, home alone apart from my son flitting in and out occasionally!” she says.

Sondheim’s 1971 musical, focuses on Phyllis and Sally, gorgeous Weismann showgirls back in the day, and the boys who were their double dates. Sally married Buddy, but was in love with Ben, who married Phyllis, and the reunion throws them right back into their complicated love quadrangle.

“It would be very easy to play Phyllis as a complete cow, but you have to see her vulnerability, which goes back to her younger days,” says Susannah. “She’d always wanted children but Ben kept putting it off; now she’s very brittle, sharp, well read; but she’s also funny, which comes across best in her scenes with Ben.”

Tracey, from Hull, had worked on cruise ships from 1992 to 2007, going to sea like her father, merchant seaman Captain Brian Rea, and her brother, Anthony, who takes supplies out to wind farms.

“I’d always wanted to travel and I miss it, but I can’t complain, I had a long run at it. I started as a dancer, then went into singing, which gives you longevity, and you didn’t have to do tasks on board any more. No longer did I have to bingo calling, or embarkation duties, or library duties. We all enjoyed those: the perfect thing to do after a hangover!” she says, with irony in her voice.

Tracey, who lives in Market Weighton, ideal for both York and Hull, has been doing primarily temping jobs since returning to terra firma, but the performing bug never goes away and now she is to do her first acting roles since her student days in 1987, after “leaving home at 16 for the bright lights of London”.

“I first auditioned for Pick Me Up’s Cats, when choreographer Ali Kirkham suggested I should play Grizebella, which I’ll be doing at the Grand Opera House in November.,” she says. “But director Robert Readman also took me to one side to say, ‘How about doing Sally in Follies?’. I thought, ‘fine, that should be just a few cameo scenes’, but it turns out to be rather more than that, which is nice. “Sally’s very delusional, living in the past, still hopeful for a relationship that she can never have; so she’s very sad, which is so far from myself!”

Tickets for Pick Me Up Theatre’s 7.30pm evening shows and two 2.30pm Saturday matinees are on sale on 01904 623568 or at pickmeuptheatre.com.