Date 14th May 2024
Society Horsham Amateur Operatic & Dramatic Society HAODS
Venue The Capitol Theatre, Horsham
Type of Production Musical
Director Yvonne |Chadwell
Musical Director Brian D Steel


Author: Keith Smithers

It has been quite a few years since I have seen “Half a Sixpence”. This rewritten version, script by Julian Fellowes, is an extremely entertaining retelling of the story of Arthur Kipps from rags to riches - not once but twice. The original music score has been re-orchestrated very well and a lot of the songs have been enlivened by this as well as keeping some of the more gentle songs in a sensitive arrangement. There were also several new songs in this latest production, all of relevance and sensitively complementing the story and original genre of David Heneker’s music.

Brian Steels and his eight musicians handled this very well. For some of the solos and duets there was an imbalance between being able to hear the singers’ words and the volume of the orchestra especially in the underscoring sections. Maybe this was because there were four brass instruments for which it is not so easy to reduce the volume. For the ensemble numbers the volume was good and powerful and this was matched well by the singers.

Arthur Kipps (Jonny Jones), the titular character took the stage for most of the entire performance. This individual had two ladies in his life who are Ann Pornick (Cheryl Hacker), his childhood sweetheart. The other one is Helen Walsingham  (Alicia Marson) the girl to whom he becomes infatuated and engaged. Needless to say, he makes the correct choice and in this version of the story, it ends with the up-tempo “Flash, Bang, Wallop!” as a finale. As this is the probably the best known song from the show, that was a wise decision from the writer and is an improvement to the original.

The three actors chosen for the above three parts had plenty to do throughout the performance and enacted and sang their parts well. The engaged Helen dealt with the break-up of her engagement with great demeanour but that was probably because she had a parent and brother with their own problems. Mother, Mrs. Walsingham (Tess Kennedy) was trying to cope with her lack of adequate funds for her desired lifestyle after the death of her husband whilst also dealing with her other child, James (Cameron Rowell), a fraudulent financial advisor and investor.  Consequently, her mental state was not good and this was played well as the moody and tearful person that she had become over the years.

Kipps had throughout the performance several encounters with his friends and colleagues - Ann’s brother, Sid (George Long), Buggins (Steve Cronin), Pierce (Luke Moulange) and Flo Evans (Chelsea Love). This group interacted well together and sang well in their ensemble songs. There were several other characters involved with Kipps development from child to adult being Aunt Susan (Lynn Andrews), Uncle Bert (Mervyn Wakelin), his employer, Mr Shalford (Philip Chadwell) and Lady Punnet (Roz Hall). These added plenty more colour to the storyline.

The larger than life character in this production is Harry Chitterlow (Andrew Donovan). He is a play writer and is the accidental cause of Kipps’ original large legacy. The author was confidently portrayed and his suitably enacted largesse together with his height depicted all the energy and enthusiasm that the part required.

The scenery for the many backdrops and gobos were extremely impressive and  the many changes were executed with precision and efficiency.  Costumes were well in keeping for the time period of the turn of the nineteenth and twentieth century.   

Choreography was complicated - and plenty of it - as there were a fair number of ensemble songs. As complicated as it was, it just looked so natural and the continuity was just neat and tidy.      

Over all, this was a most enjoyable production. So congratulations to directors, those on stage, backstage crew and the production team, including make-up and costumes, lighting and sound.

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