There is a gentle elegance to Half a Sixpence, the latest retelling of H G Wells Kipps: The Story of a Simple Soul, which American tourists will adore. It has oh-so British charm by the bucket and spade and leading man Charlie Stemp truly deserves every plaudit heaped upon him following the show’s out-of-town reviews in Chichester.
Five Star hit transfers are getting to be a habit with Chichester Festival Theatre as another Musical Theatre classic now makes the move from the delightful South Coast town to the bright lights of London’s West End. In just the past few years, Sweeney Todd and Gypsy have made that same move, and have a clutch of Olivier Awards to prove it.
Half A Sixpence is probably best known for the hit 1967 movie adaptation of the David Heneker musical starring Tommy Steele, but Chichester’s production, with new songs by Anthony Drewe and George Stiles (whose other work includes Betty Blue Eyes, Mary Poppins and Honk!) looks set to make an even bigger star of leading man Charlie Stemp who gives a madly infectious and utterly beguiling performance as Kipps.
We got the inside scoop last year when we had the great privilege to chat over coffee at the Hospital Club with lyricist Anthony Drewe:
“ [Cameron Mackintosh] wanted us to do exactly what we did with Mary Poppins which was to put some new songs in, in the style of David Heneker, to unpick some of the songs already there and to write in some new sections and also to undo the “star vehicle” quality – I think there were seventeen songs in the original show and Tommy Steele sang fifteen of them! The book, Kipps, by H G Wells makes more of a social point than the original stage show. Cameron asked us to take on the project with Julian Fellowes who we worked with on Mary Poppins. So far I’ve added some sections, written a new lyric to an old tune and also penned a completely new number which George is setting to music.”
You can read about Half a Sixpence in part two of our interview with Anthony Drewe here and well as part one in which Anthony discusses how he and George Stiles began writing and just how it feels to win an Olivier Award.
Here’s what the critics are saying about Half a Sixpence
So warm you’ll feel like you’re basking by the seaside – Dominic Cavendish
Flash, bang, wallop, what a show! Welcome to the undoubted hit of the summer, perhaps even the year, courtesy of Chichester, easily the country’s finest purveyor of musical theatre. – Fiona Montford
Don’t miss out – book tickets for Half a Sixpence – on sale now!
Previews from 29 October 2016
Noel Coward Theatre
St Martin’s Lane