Half A Sixpence
★★★★★ “Flash, Bang, Wow What a Show!
Review by Caroline Hanks-Farmer
It’s not often you get an invitation to see both an incredible show such as Half A Sixpence and an opportunity to speak to the cast. As you can imagine I responded by return to that particular email.
When we arrived at the theatre we were split into two groups. First stop was the stage, to partake in a dance class with the über talented dance captain Jaye Juliette Elster who also plays Mrs Wace. We saw how very fast the choreography is for Flash, Bang, Wallop. I admire their stamina to be able to do this eight times a week.
Next we had a banjo demonstration from the lead Charlie Stemp. Stemp told us how this is his first lead role and that it took just eight weeks to learn the banjo. Some intensive training was received. It was refreshing to hear how utterly thankful Stemp is to being playing this role and how he was grateful to the more experienced cast members to help him.
Charlie Stemp was then joined by Emma Williams (Helen Walsingham) Bethany Huckle (Flo) Sam O’Rouke (Buggins) and Jaye Juliette Elster (Dance Captain/Mrs Wace). A few questions were asked of which I asked – What was each of their favourite numbers in the show. Emma – Pick Out A Simple Tune because of Andrews choreography it just gets wilder and wilder. Bethany – A little Touch of Happiness. Charlie that’s a hard question for me different days, different songs. It depends if it’s a singing kind of day or dancing day: Dancing day – If The Rains Got To Fall. Singing Day – In The Middle There’s Me and Pick Out A Simple Tune because of Babs (Charlie’s Banjo is called Babs). Sam – In The Middle There’s Me.
HALF A SIXPENCE
Arthur Kipps (Charlie Stemp), is an orphan and over-worked draper’s assistant at the turn of the last century. Kipps unexpectedly inherits a fortune that propels him into high society. His childhood companion, Ann Pornick (Rebecca Jayne-Davies), watches with dismay as Arthur is made over in a new image, by the beautiful and classy Helen Walsingham (Emma Williams). Both young women undoubtedly love Arthur – but which of them should he listen to? 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. With songs such as Flash, Bang, Wallop and Half A Sixpence you’ll be humming the tunes for days.
I first saw this show on stage many years ago but have to say, that did not prepare me for the visual spectacle that I witnessed in this new production when I saw it last year. This revisit further cemented my utter delight and love for this show. All the cast were utterly superb. The choreography by Andrew Wright was sublime and brought this exuberant show to life. Along with spectacular costumes and staging this really was a sumptuous visual delight.
The entire cast surpass themselves. Many readers of my site will know I champion cover’s and tonight we had Rebecca Jayne-Davies as our feisty Ann. Jayne-Davies really showed what a forward thinking woman of the time could be. I loved her characterisation, a perfect combination of sweetness and resolve to not be forgotten, harbouring her love and her “Half a Sixpence” for years,. The striving to-be upper class fiancée Emma Williams, brow beaten by her matriarchal mother Vivien Parry, both were beautifully portrayed. Williams really did tug at the heart-strings when you realise that she had fallen for Arthur. There were many brilliant performances but one that made me laugh was Gerard Carey. As the photographer Carey really made me chuckle. While Bethany Huckle as Flo was a delight.
Triple Threat performer Charlie Stemp
I have to say though Charlie Stemp, absolutely rightly, stole the show. It is after all the story of Arthur Kipps and he wowed the audience with his charismatic brilliance. His dancing, singing and acting rivaled ‘the original Arthur Kipps’ Tommy Steele when he played the role in the film version. I was truly in awe of Stemp’s performance.
This production with book by Julian Fellowes and new music and lyrics by George Stiles and Anthony Drewe, feels and exudes top class quality. With no expense spared, it really is a visual feast for the eyes. The cast are perfect but the lead, Charlie Stemp provides us with simply one of the best performances in a show I’ve ever had the privelege to see.
It’s a colourful story with a moral dilemma, but like all the best musicals it has a very happy ending and you leave the theatre with a spring in your step and humming the songs for days.