Noel Coward Theatre, London
New Music & Songs by George Stiles & Anthony Drew
Original Songs by David Heneker
Book by Julian Fellowes
Directed by Rachel Kavanaugh
This website has already reviewed Half A Sixpence in both its Chichester and West End iterations, however an invitation to meet some of the show’s talented cast and take a peek backstage proved irresistible.
Josh Adams who’d not yet seen the show went along....
It's rare to watch a West End musical that is so wonderfully British - and Half a Sixpence really is just that, in so many ways.
The direction, choreography and music of the piece frame the energy wonderfully. Amongst the songs, Look Alive captures the boyish behaviour contrasted with the strict discipline of the workplace, while the title song is sung with such innocence and young love by lead characters Arthur Kipps and Ann Pornick, that you can almost feel the warmth in the auditorium.
Meeting Charlie Stemp who plays Arthur Kipps before the show, together with other cast members was a joy. And even more so, to discover that Stemp has the same laddish, comical yet sincere energy in person as he portrays on stage. Not only is his singing and acting fantastic but Stemp makes the choreography look like spur of the moment celebratory leaps of joy as he makes discovery after discovery throughout Act 1.
Other exceptional work comes from Bethany Huckle as the naughty playful Flo, Sam O'Rourke in the ensemble and of course the stunning Emma Williams as Helen Walsingham, Kipp’s alternative love interest. Williams is slowly becoming a legend of our time, consistently glorious to both watch and listen to.
While the above mentioned are particularly impressive, Half A Sixpence is undoubtedly one of those shows with the ensemble at its very heart. From the hustle and bustle of frolics at work through to bat and ball on the lawn, Andrew Wright’s choreography looks completely at home, at times going right to the edge of the Noel Coward Theatre’s tight playing space.
On as Ann Pornick for the night was Rebecca Jayne Davies, who like Stemp delivers a wonderful balance of youth, innocence and sincerity as her relationship with Arthur develops from childhood sweethearts. Davies yet again proves that the quality of London’s understudies remains utterly perfect
The show oozes charm from start to finish and leaves its audience beaming from ear to ear. In dance routines of breathtaking complexity glasses, curtains, bouquets and more are thrown across the stage and not a single one is dropped.
Stiles and Drewe’s musical additions to the 1960s original keep the charm and energy flowing throughout, all excellently executed by musical director Graham Hurman. The seamless transition from pier to parlour, that never sees the show lack pace, reflects slick direction from Rachel Kavanaugh.
The show builds to a flash, bang wallop of a finale. Long may it continue!
Booking until 2nd September
Reviewed by Josh Adams