Previewed 29 October 2016, Opened 17 November 2016, Closed 2 September 2017 at the Noel Coward Theatre
The first West End revival of the classic 1960s musical Half a Sixpence in London from October 2016 - transferring from an an acclaimed season earier this year at the Chichester Festival Theatre
Arthur Kipps, an orphan, is an over-worked draper's assistant at Shalford's Bazaar in Folkestone, at the turn of the last century. He is a charming but ordinary young man who, along with his fellow apprentices, dreams of a better and more fulfilling world, but he likes his fun just like any other, except not quite. When Kipps unexpectedly inherits a fortune that propels him into high society, it confuses everything he thought he knew about life. With the help of his friends, Arthur learns that if you want to have the chance of living the right life, you need to make the right choices. Featuring the classic songs 'Flash, Bang, Wallop', 'Money To Burn' and the title song.
The cast for this West End staging features Charlie Stemp as 'Arthur Kipps', Devon-Elise Johnson as 'Ann Pornick', Ian Bartholomew as 'Chitterlow', Emma Williams as 'Helen Walsingham' and Vivien Parry as 'Mrs Walsingham' who are all reprising their roles from the Chichester Festival Theatre run. Directed by Rachel Kavanaugh with choreography by Andrew Wright, lighting by Paule Constable and sound by Mick Potter.
When this production opened here at the Noel Coward Theatre in November 2016, Neil Norman in the Daily Express highlighted that, "after a triumphant run at Chichester Festival Theatre, Rachel Kavanaugh's production of Half A Sixpence has been refreshed and rebooted for the West End. The old-fashioned musical that gave Tommy Steele his big theatrical break in 1963 is now a work of vibrant beauty, with fresh songs and energy... Solid gold entertainment." Ann Treneman in the Times explained that "it was the impresario Cameron Mackintosh who wanted to give this musical new life, hiring the hit-maker team of Julian Fellowes to write the script and the composer George Stiles and the lyricist Anthony Drewe to reinvigorate the whole caboodle. The result is a new script, seven new songs and the others considerably improved... Andrew Wright's choreography is sharp throughout but on the best numbers it is extraordinary. Those include Flash, Bang, Wallop which is, to use a technical term, absolutely stonking."
When this production opened at the Chichester Festival Theatre in West Sussex in July 2016, pre-West End, Fiona Mountford in the London Evening Standard exclaimed: "What a show! Welcome to the undoubted hit of the summer, perhaps even the year, courtesy of Chichester... Next stop the West End, and awards aplenty." Gary Shipton in The i Newspaper said that, "thanks to a mix of choreography, endlessly revolving props of merry-go-round proportions, and a cast who are on fire with Charlie Stemp ablaze at the helm, this is a genuine masterpiece... This is a triumph." Sam Marlowe in The Times highlighted that the "sparkling new songs enhance skilful reworkings of David Heneker's original numbers. And Rachel Kavanaugh's production is right on the money, with dazzling choreography by Andrew Wright and a lead performance by the newcomer Charlie Stemp that radiates easy charm and gawky grace... Yes, the show is brash and sentimental, and it lacks the substance to become a classic. Yet when it's polished up as deftly as this, it's rollicking good fun." Lyn Gardner in The Guardian thought that "Rachel Kavanaugh's staging is hugely efficient - it knows how to deliver a finale and a curtain call - but oddly charmless... Sympathy and heart are what this strenuous, old-fashioned enterprise utterly lacks." Quentin Letts in The Daily Mail wrote that "this is a creditable show, in places even charming and performed with indisputable energy. It succeeds chiefly for two reasons: an insistently springy young male star, Charlie Stemp, and a great finale song, Flash Bang Wallop." Ian Shuttleworth in The Financial Times explained that "a few of David Heneker's songs have been cut, with the remainder reordered, repurposed and augmented by new numbers from George Stiles and Anthony Drewe; Beverley Cross's script has been replaced with one by Julian Fellowes... The songs are for the most part jaunty to say the least, with the new Stiles & Drewe numbers fitting in well among the repointed originals," adding that "Rachel Kavanaugh directs stylishly." Dominic Cavendish in The Daily Telegraph said: "Flash, Bang, Wallop! What a turn up for the books! Half a Sixpence, the larky musical that catapulted Tommy Steele into a different showbiz league over half a century ago, has been enhanced, re-sized, had all its blemishes removed and now looks pretty close to perfection... Bravo! If the first incarnation of this show was all Steele, this one's pure gold."
Original musical by David Heneker and Beverley Cross based on the H.G. Wells novel Kipps: The Story of a Simple Soul, this new stage version features book by Julian Fellowes with additional music and lyrics by George Stiles and Anthony Drewe - reuniting the team behind the stage adaption of the musical Mary Poppins (Prince Edward Theatre 2004). Rachel Kavanaugh's London credits include the musicals Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (Open Air Theatre Regent's Park 2015) and Love Story (Duchess Theatre 2010).
"Flash, bang, wallop! What a show!... Arthur Kipps, the 'umble draper who inherits a fortune and overnight is catapulted into Edwardian high society - and the arms of Helen, a gentle teacher. But while he struggles to fit into the upper classes - and his scheming in-laws-to-be make plans for his money - he can't forget Ann, his childhood sweetheart. Now a parlour maid, Ann still carries a torch for Arthur, along with the halfsixpence he gave her as a love token. Thanks to terrific choreography, energetic dancing and show stopping numbers like Pick Out A Simple Tune and Flash Bang Wallop, this revival of the 1967 classic by Julian Fellowes is now undoubtedly the hottest ticket in the West End. You'll leave stamping your feet!" The Sunday Mirror
"The flash bang wallop is a long time coming in this unlovely revamp of the old Tommy Steele musical, set in Edwardian days and fossilised in social immobility... The 1965 score by David Heneker is gently titivated by the team of Stiles and Drewe (who previously revived Mary Poppins), but undistinguished melodies merely smooth out the rorty original. For a feelgood show, it's pretty miserable. Arthur swaps penny-pinching drudgery for the toffs' money-grabbing contempt. A snobby text thuds lifelessly to the floor: Julian Fellowes doesn't so much write dialogue as stab his keyboard with a copy of Debrett's. Still, there's a smart design and a lovable cast... The production's heart is Andrew Wright's choreography. His fabulous off-kilter ensembles offer knock knees, slanting angles and a wonderful trick of sending people popping up out of a group like a cork." The Sunday Times
The original stage production of Half a Sixpence, starring Tommy Steele as 'Arthur Kipps' with Marti Webb as 'Ann Pornick' opened at London's Cambridge Theatre on Thursday 21 March 1963 and continued, for a run of just over 19 months, up to Saturday 31 October 1964. Tommy Steele went on to star in a revised version, with additional and expanded dance sequences, on Broadway in 1965 and in the 1967 film version.
Half a Sixpence in London at the Noel Coward Theatre previewed from 29 October 2016, opened on 17 November 2016 and closed on 2 September 2017