I was kindly invited along to the press/ opening night of Half a Sixpence at the Noël Coward Theatre. After a hugely successful run at Chichester Festival Theatre, this Mackintosh- produced show is finally bracing the West End stage where I think it’s found a firm home.
Half a Sixpence tells H.G. Wells' story of his autobiographical novel 'Kipps' which follows Arthur Kipps, a young man who goes from rags to riches after inheriting a large sum of money from an unsuspecting Uncle. We follow Kipps’ love triangle between high society doll Helen and childhood sweetheart, Ann and his struggle with his newfound life in the upper class.
The original production in 1963 was a huge success and launched new star Tommy Steele back in the day. However I was a little apprehensive that the show could appear a little outdated over 50 years later, but with a fantastic new creative team to boost the revival, it worked perfectly.
New material has been added by George Stiles and Anthony Drewe with an additional eight new songs and a new book by Julian Fellowes. Alongside David Heneker's beautiful original score, Stiles and Drewe's additions fit in seamlessly. It is actually a lot the new songs that I enjoyed most, with 'A Little Touch of Happiness' and 'Pick Out a Simple Tune' proving show-stoppers of the evening. The music is truly impressive and I haven't stopped listening to the new cast recording since I left the theatre!
To accompany the amazing soundtrack of the show, Andrew Wright gives some of the best choreography I've ever seen. Its slick and complex but effortlessly pulled off by the insane cast of dancers. I am a massive fan of big ensemble pieces and this show is packed with perfect examples, including 'Pick Out A Simple Tune', 'If The Rain's Got To Fall' and 'Flash, Bang, Wallop'. I'm glad the company have had time to develop through their run at Chichester and previews as its obviously paid off, showing off their tight routines and real chemistry as a cast. There is such a buzz of energy on stage that is totally infectious. I turned to Shaun afterwards and expressed how desperate I was to jump on stage and join in!
It is an absolute gem of a cast where the joint effort has produced the perfect show. I'm not one for following rave reviews but I can indeed myself rave about new star Charlie Stemp. I can't remember the last time I've felt so blown away and excited by a new performer. He is completely charming in his role of Arthur Kipps and he is the definition of a triple threat. For me, it was his smooth and gliding dancing that mesmerised me most. As strange as it sounds, something that stood out to me was his incredible posture and how he utilised this to create beautiful shapes through movement. They've really hit the jackpot with this one, I cannot wait to follow his future successes.
Alongside Stemp, other notable cast members include Devon- Elise Johnson as Ann, who gives a spine-tingling rendition of 'Long Ago' and Emma Williams who plays Kipps' other love- interest, Helen. The two leading ladies are such different characters but both are played with such finesse. Bethany Huckle plays Flo, an outgoing and loveable friend of the haberdashery boys. Huckle's performance of 'A Little Touch of Happiness' alongside Johnson was hilarious and hugely impressive due to their comedic timing with great vocals.
I loved the staging design by Paul Brown who creates scenes of small town Folkestone as well as grandeur of Kipps' new life. The set was simple with use of an odd desk, bar, pillars but this was perfectly done to keep the attention on the performers and projections were also used as a backdrop to the story. It was the use of the five- piece revolve that impressed me most, keeping the environment constantly moving forward and was even used to enhance the sublime choreography.
I tried to think of some critiques for this show but I honestly couldn't think of any. I am so impressed with this production... I wasn't expecting to be so blown away by it! I am already desperate to go back to watch it again! It is a truly great British musical and I hope it goes down in history.
I give this production a faultless ★★★★★.
What a triumph!
Half a Sixpence runs at the Noël Coward Theatre until February 11th.. buy your tickets now! Read further Half A Sixpence reviews at TheatreBloggers.co.uk.
Ellie Mae x
Disclaimer: I was kindly invited to this performance but all thoughts and opinions are my own. Photos are credited.