Half a Sixpence
26th October 2012
Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds
Type of Production
Author: Julie Petrucci
What audiences respond to is all-out musical entertainment and Half a Sixpence must be classed as one of the great family musicals loaded as it is with excellent songs. H.G. Wells wrote “Kipps – The Story of a Simple Soul” over a century ago. Originally staged in the West End in 1963 (book by Beverley Cross, music and lyrics by David Heneker), it later became a film both very much a vehicle for Tommy Steele.
Now the script has been re-worked but the new version still has all the old favourites Flash, Bang, Wallop!, Half A Sixpence, All In The Cause of Economy etc. plus nine new songs added by Warren Brown, which I feel, fit in with the original songs splendidly.
The famous story revolves around Arthur Kipps whose life changes when he inherits money. Kipps tries to become part of the upper set, loses all his old friends and seemingly forgets his childhood sweetheart Anne who carries the other half of his sixpence: becoming engaged instead to the wealthy Helen Walshingam. Kipps realises he doesn’t belong in this new world and that the girl who still carries her half of the sixpence is the girl for him.
On stage continually from the start of the show to the curtain call, Jonathan Lodge had the warmth and sense of humour necessary to make Kipps lovable. It must be a daunting prospect for any lead male cast in this role and Jonathan should be congratulated on his performance. His singing and dancing were excellent throughout and not a foot or note was out of place all evening.
Good strong performances were had too from Kipps’ fellow employees Adam Stewart as Sid, Matt Dipper as Pearce and particularly Liam Corbett as Buggins. This trio was augmented by a flamboyant performance from Nick Harpur as Mr Chitterlow.
Megan Polston made a very sweet Anne giving us flashes of her character’s feistiness when needed. Sally Donaghey as Helen Walsingham imbued her character with much more apparent warmth and kindness than one has come to expect from this role and it worked well – I really liked her and believed she cared for Kipps. This was a fine performance added to by Sally’s beautiful singing voice.
The addition of new songs gives the ensemble more to do and one song Finesse belongs to the Walsinghams. This little scene showed us that Mrs Walsingham (Debbie Croll) was a force to be reckoned with – everyone’s nightmare mother-in-law and Young Walsingham (Jamie Maguire) was not at all the sort of person to do business with!
The hardworking chorus ensemble was excellent and all totally involved with the action when they were on stage, which is not something that happens in all amateur shows. I must commend Colin Musgrove for his delightful cameo in the woodwork scene from which he got much humour.
The scenery and props were minimal yet effective. The huge sixpence which was centre stage on curtain up split in half to form two sides of the backdrop into which was fitted other scenery. Very clever and imaginative and full marks to the stage crew for handling the myriad of scene changes swiftly and efficiently. The costumes, sound effects and lighting were first-rate, and although, at times, some of the dialogue was hard to hear as the music accompanying it was rather loud the orchestra under the direction of Simon Pearce was tight and polished.
Lou Petch’s direction kept things cheery and animated with some nice extra humorous touches - I loved the champagne cork! - and Jackie Straham’s excellent choreography was deceptively simple and executed well by the whole cast.
Everyone who saw BSEAODS’s Half A Sixpence, including Patron Roy Hudd, was delightfully entertained so there is not really a lot left to say. Superb stage and musical direction. Fantastic leading artists and an excellent supporting cast!
Thank you for inviting me and for your hospitality