New British musicals in the West End have grown very scarce lately. Most shows that open in the West End are either Broadway transfers or revivals. A few days ago though, performances of a “new” British musical began. I’m talking of course about “Half A Sixpence”. Although technically it has been done before, it has a brand new book and a bunch of new songs mixed with some of the old classics. I was at the first preview and saw that this show is flash bang wonderful.
The story centres around Arthur Kipps (Played by Charlie Stemp), a young man who leaves his home town to get a job as a draper’s assistant. Before doing so, he and his childhood sweetheart Ann (Devon-Elise Johnson) break a sixpence in two and each keep one half. When he suddenly inherits a fortune from his astranged grandfather seven years later, he becomes friendly with upper-class beauty Helen Walsingham (Emma Williams). Arthur is now torn between these two women and faces a tough choice.
This production will keep you entertained from start to finish. With its comedy, romance and incredibly catchy ensemble numbers, you won’t be bored for one second. George Stiles and Anthony Drewe did a wonderful job of incorporating the classics from the original musical into their new score. They go seemlessly together. If I didn’t know any better I would have thought all the songs were written by the same people. With a book by Downton Abbey creator and writer Julian Fellowes, you just know I don’t have to tell you that the story was on point.
The cast is simply perfect. Charlie Stemp does a great job of carrying the burden that is leading such a production. He is without a doubt a star in the making. Devon-Elise Johnson and Emma Williams perfectly portray the emotions that these characters caught in a love-triangle are going through. Ian Bartholomew as Chitterlow is a great father-figure for Kipps and is the driving force behind much of Arthur’s adventure. The entire cast was extraordinarily good and will give you a performance you will never forget.
A good old-fashioned musical that will entertain young and old. Even the first preview was basically flawless. 4 stars!
Half A Sixpence is now playing at The Noël Coward Theatre
Review by Dries Janssens: @DriesJanssens3