Kipps, the new Half a Sixpence

Date 9th November 2019
Society Hereford Musical Theatre Company
Venue Courtyard Theatre, Hereford
Type of Production Musical
Director Nigel Holloway
Musical Director Jenni Axtell
Choreographer Becks White
Producer Nicky Willett and Richard Davies

Report

Author: Louise Hickey

Pre-opening, some of the cast were standing in the moonlight on the pier, with their backs to the audience as if they were looking out to sea. The lighting and sound effects made this atmospheric tableau a beautiful way to set the scene for this brilliant show.

The stellar cast, without exception, put their hearts and souls into this new adaptation of the old faithful, ‘Half a Sixpence’, turning it into the invigorating ‘Kipps’. Under the wonderful direction of Nigel Holloway and Jenni Axtell the cast were confident, relaxed and perfect in their individual roles. The added bonus was the amazing choreography from Becks White, whose well-rehearsed numbers looked completely effortless.  Great use of the stage, the lighting complimented the scenes exquisitely with a gorgeous moon making several welcome appearances. The well-executed scene changes were efficient, silent and incorporated into the action, which was unobtrusive and, most importantly, didn’t slow the pace at all.

The principle characters were remarkable, especially Charlie Plumridge who, as Kipps, stole the show. The chemistry he had with Samantha Stokes as Ann and Chloe Darrell as Helen belied his age and experience. This multi-talented young man was an absolute joy to watch; I was very impressed that Charlie had learnt to play the banjo to enhance his faultless performance. I can’t wait to see how he and his fellow former youth group members progress in the coming years. Meg Reid, playing Mary Buggins, has a beautiful voice and was delightful in the role, as too were Riley Gummerson as Sid and Thomas Phillips as Pierce. These younger cast members certainly held their own and, without doubt, enjoyed themselves immensely which heightened their impeccable performances, making an incredibly strong principle lineup. All credit to Nigel, Nicky and Jenni for bringing out the very best in them. Sarah Rowberry complimented the shop staff as Flo. In my opinion, this was the best that she has done. Her performance added a maturity and empathy to the character. Sam Rogerson joined the 3 young men for a quartet in the second half which was beautiful, not just for the singing but the staging too, making it quite special.

Newcomer to the society, Neil Franklin as Shalford/Hayes, gave an impressive debut performance: he was perfect as Shalford. He was ably supported by Steve Allan as Carshot/Photographer who was very funny when attempting to take the pictures.

Samantha Stokes and Chloe Darrell were superb. The individual interpretation of their characters was wonderful: you couldn’t fault either of them. Sam’s cheeky yet forthright portrayal of the girl who watches Kipps change (not necessarily in a good way) whilst never giving up on him, was just right and Chloe’s Helen was sophisticated, kind and sad all at the same time. Both have incredible singing voices and it was a pleasure to watch them in action. Their duets with Charlie were stunning, but I also enjoyed Samantha and Sarah’s duet very much: the innuendo’s delivered very much tongue in cheek.

Donna Reid played Helen’s mother, the imposing and overbearing Mrs. Walsingham. A role she carried off with suitable superiority and snobbery, and who deserved her comeuppance at the fraudulent actions of her son James played by Richard Davies. Very nice interaction, with strong singing, rounded of this trios’ performances.

Ian Burrell was fantastic as Chitterlow. His drunken episodes were perfect as his dialogue never dipped and his delivery first class. The energy he exuded was tangible and he had such charisma in this great role. It was also wonderful to see Trish Chandler playing the incomparable Lady Punnet, which she made look so much fun: fabulous. David Newton in dual roles, Uncle Bert and the Architect. ably carried both of with ease, as did Nicky Willett as Aunt Susan and Lady Dacre: the bassoon playing was hilarious.

This really was a feel-good show, full of songs we all know yet they felt fresh and revitalised, thanks to the cast, Jenni Axtell and her musicians. The costumes were completed with wigs and hats giving authenticity to the era and looked gorgeous under the amazing lighting. The little touches which had been added meant that, at times, you needed more than one pair of eyes to take it all in: brilliant direction and attention to detail. Well done everyone.