Half a Sixpence

Date 7th October 2016
Society Alcester Musical Theatre Company
Venue Palace Theatre Redditch
Type of Production Musical
Director Bev Hatton
Musical Director Mandy Alexander and Joe George (Orchestral Director)
Choreographer Dawn Tolley


Author: Andy Brown

Based on HG Wells book ‘Kipps – The Story of a Simple Soul’ this popular musical opened at The Cambridge Theatre in London’s West End in March 1963. The musical staring Tommy Steele and Marti Webb told the tale of Arthur Kipps who inherits a fortune only to lose it again.  Arthur Kipps or ‘Artie’ tells us the story of how a sixpence was cut in half when he was a young lad. Half held by Artie and the other half by Ann, each remembering the other whenever they looked at their half. A brand new version of the show is moving back into the West End at the Noel Coward Theatre at the end of this month.

The version available to amateur groups, which toured professionally in 2006/07, retained many of the original popular songs such as ‘Flash Bang Wallop’, ‘All in The Cause of Economy’ and of course ‘Half a Sixpence’ plus nine new songs added by Warren Brown.

The character of Kipps is on stage throughout the majority of the show. Played by Stuart Parish he was every bit the cheeky lovable character required. It is a demanding role as the plot develops however Parish retained the character’s working class background well. He clearly enjoyed the role which was carried out with energy. Dialogue was well delivered and every word of the songs sung were heard. Millie Coles was delightful as Ann and sang “I Know What I Am” and “Long Ago” with feeling. Once again getting into the character throughout the show.

Although many of the cast were a little more mature in age than the roles they were playing, for the most part this did not matter. The balance between the shop boys, Jamie Green as ‘Sid’, Dave Hatton as ‘Buggins’ and Andy Sutton as ‘Pearce’ against the shop girls, Hayley Willis as ‘Kate’, Gemma Jones as ‘Victoria’ and Stephanie Dean was just right and the dance routine during ‘Proper Gentleman’ was well rehearsed.  During ‘All in the cause of Economy’ the shop boys’ routine with their bowler hats is worth a special mention and was well conducted and the boys showed a warm friendship with Kipps.

Malcolm Steward was marvellous as Mr Shalford the autocratic and pompous owner of Shalford’s Drapery Emporium. His facial expressions and mannerisms were brilliant. During the scene when Kipps announced he resigns from the shop his movement and interpretation were almost Basil Fawlty like.

Chitterlow, played by Jeff Gill, the play write was flamboyant and looked theatrical although could have been slightly more eccentric to fully bring out the comedy further in his scenes with Kipps. Nevertheless, every word could be heard and the performance was enjoyable.

Members of chorus played the smaller roles who Kipps and Ann encounter throughout the show. John Baker was a joy as the deckchair attendant playing it for the laughs the scene deserves. The chorus including a number of youth members of the society worked well with the principals. The chorography worked even when the stage was at time rather full. The wedding scene including the well-known ‘Flash Bang Wallop’ scene and the cricket scene were both particularly well done.  The cricket scene demonstrated well Kipps’s dilemma between joining the shop boys team drinking from tankards or the upper class having a cup of tea.  

In the ballroom scene some humour was lost. However, the Walsingham family worked well together during this and the rest of the show even if the character young Walsingham needed to be changed to an Uncle. Sarah Roberts playing Helen Walsingham sang her song ‘Be determined’ with confidence.

The crew and cast managed the numerous scene changes effectively and there were some nice touches such as spot lights on the street lighting in the Promenade scene. The seven-piece band sounded good under the leadership of Joe George. Their level well matched the vocals enabling the audience to appreciate the music and enjoy the singing.    

Overall this was an enjoyable evening of live theatre by Alcester Musical Theatre Company. The audience clearly enjoyed the show. Well done to all involved whether on stage or behind the scenes and I look forward to seeing ‘Nine to Five’ next year.

Andy Brown