Half a Sixpence Review

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Half a Sixpence review

Half a Sixpence Cast

Charlie Stemp (Arthur Kipps), Devon-Elise Johnson (Ann Pornick), Jennifer Louise Jones (Helen Walsingham*), Vivien Parry (Mrs Walsingham), Ian Bartholomew (Chitterlow), Lauren Varnham (Flo*). More here. (* denotes an understudy).

Half a Sixpence Review

With a new book by Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes and new songs by George Stiles and Anthony Drewe, the West End’s current production of Half a Sixpence is an updated version of the 1963 musical of the same name. Arthur Kipps (Charlie Stemp) a shop assistant with a love of banjos comes into money, a turn of events that propels him into a new world of extravagance to which he is definitely not accustomed. Like many musicals of its time, Half a Sixpence is underpinned by a fluffy love story; it’s superficial at every turn, multiple young female protagonists fall at Kipps’ feet, his sole predicament being to decide between them. Fellowes’ dialogue is needlessly drawn out at times, only prolonging the plot’s inevitable romantic conclusion. Yes, it’s all very lovely, lighthearted and uplifting but it feels dated – this millennial wants more from a musical.

That being said, I have no further gripes about this production of Half a Sixpence. Set on a beautifully lit, highly efficient revolving stage, Stemp leaps and dances around with a loveable, exuberant energy as he leads us through this energetic piece. The ensemble cast deliver impressive character driven performances in a wealth of minor roles and the production really comes into its own during the highly choreographed large group numbers that are infectious with their joy. ‘Flash, Bang, Wallop’ is, of course, the prime example of this but I also particularly enjoyed Styles and Drewe’s second act addition, ‘ Pick Out a Simple Tune’, which results in minor mayhem as a party of upper-class ladies and gentlemen are captivated by the accessible joy of Arthur’s banjo.

Overall, this is a very high-quality production of a somewhat dated piece. It delivers a cheerful afternoon’s entertainment but doesn’t break any boundaries or linger in one’s psyche. I give Half a Sixpence a rating of 4/5.

Relive the joy of this production with the London Cast Recording*!

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