The coin itself may not be worth a lot, but Half a Sixpence at the Noël Coward Theatre is a rare gem of a production.
A romantic, humorous and inspiring story, it was a joy to see and hear, from the banjo strumming in the opening moments right through to the super-energetic dancing in the closing number, Flash Bang Wallop!
Half a Sixpence premiered last month in the West End following a record-breaking run last summer at the Chichester Festival Theatre. Originally debuting in 1963, the musical about a humble draper’s assistant who unexpectedly inherits a fortune was a hit back then too. Based on the 1905 semi-autobiographical novel Kipps by HG Wells, Julian Fellowes of Downtown Abbey fame has re-dramatised the book adding richer layers dealing with love, family, social class and self-worth.
As you’d expect, the cast is a treasure trove of talent. Charlie Stemp as the endearingly naive Arthur Kipps not only charms his fellow female characters, including hometown sweetheart Ann Pornick, fancy fiancée Helen Walsingham and plucky workmate Flo (wonderfully played by Devon-Elise Johnson, Emma Williams and Bethany Huckle respectively), but also the entire audience. He powers through a range of playful scenes and fun songs. Stemp frolics with bolts of fabric at the haberdashery in Look Alive, amuses himself with croquet during a garden party in If the Rain’s Got to Fall and gives a show-stopping banjo performance at an elegant dinner in Pick Out a Simple Tune.
Producer Cameron Mackintosh enlisted George Stiles and Anthony Drewe to create this marvellous medley of tunes. They reworked the original score by late composer David Heneker, adding eight completely new songs yet retaining exhilarating numbers like Half a Sixpence, Money to Burn and, of course, Flash Bang Wallop!
Packed with gorgeous period costumes, clever sets (such as the rotating seaside promenade) and a full orchestra nestled above the stage, Half a Sixpence wows theatregoers on every level. A sterling revival of a timeless story, it guarantees a banjo-rific good time for all.
Half a Sixpence plays in the West End until 11 February 2017. Tickets are available now at Ticketmaster.co.uk.