Five Star Review from Theatre Weekly

 

The moral of the story may be that money can’t buy happiness, but spending some cash to see Half a Sixpence will definitely bring you a wealth of joy.   Following a hugely successful run at the Chichester Festival Theatre, Half a Sixpence has opened at the Noel Coward theatre in a production directed by Rachel Kavanagh.

Based on a novel by HG Wells, Half a Sixpence tells the story of orphan, Arthur Kipps, who inherits a fortune unexpectedly.  While his new found wealth opens up a world of opportunities, he soon discovers that living the life of a ‘gent’ may not be all it’s cracked up to be.

As Arthur Kipps, Charlie Stemp is, without a doubt, one of the most talented leading men on a West End stage right now. His energy is infectious and you fall in love with the character from the moment he comes on stage. His movements across the set are breath-taking; springy yet precise.  He captures every nuance of the character to absolute perfection.

If Charlie Stemp was the only actor on stage, this would still be a five star sell-out show. But he’s not; he’s joined by a whole cast that are truly remarkable.  Devon-Elise Johnson, playing ‘Ann’, brings a beautiful tenderness to the role that makes it impossible not to sympathise with the character.

Playing ‘Helen’, Emma Williams does not fail to deliver, with a voice I could happily listen to all night.  Ian Bartholomew plays the perfect ‘Chitterlow’, while Vivien Parry has some wonderful scenes. Gerard Carey plays two roles, ‘James’ and ‘Photographer’, and in the latter builds the audience to a delighted frenzy.

Keep an eye out for Bethany Huckle as ‘Flo’, Alex Hope as ‘Sid’, Callum Train as ‘Pierce’ and Sam O’Rourke as ‘Buggins’, they are a sensational group who deserve as much recognition as the leads.

The song and dance numbers, choreographed by Andrew Wright, are nothing short of spectacular. “Pick Out a Simple Tune” and, of course, “Flash, Bang, Wallop” stand out in particular. The sheer amount happening on stage is impressive, but the precision with which it’s all done makes them enthralling.

Having originally opened in London in 1963, this version of Half a Sixpence has been completely overhauled by producer Cameron Mackintosh, with Julian Fellowes providing a new book and with new and updated music from George Stiles and Anthony Drewe.  The result is a musical that is fresh and electrifying.

Half a Sixpence has it all, from an incredible cast to huge musical showstoppers.  You’ll find yourself practically floating out of the Noel Coward Theatre on a cloud of pure joy, with the lyrics of “Flash, Bang, Wallop” stuck in your head for several days.  Arthur Kipps might be heard to say this show is “fangasmically magnifical” and I would struggle to disagree.

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