This new stage version of “HALF A SIXPENCE”, the musical adaptation of H.G. Wells’s semi- autobiographical novel ‘Kipps: The Story of a Simple Soul’, is a completely fresh adaptation which reunites book-writer Julian Fellowes (Oscar-winning screenwriter and creator of Downton Abbey) with George Stiles and Anthony Drewe, the musical team that co-creator Cameron Mackintosh first put together to create the hit stage adaptation of “Mary Poppins” with Disney. The score is inspired by and features several of composer David Heneker’s exhilarating songs from the original production, including ‘Flash Bang Wallop’, ‘Money To Burn’ and ‘Half A Sixpence’.
Arthur Kipps, an orphan and over-worked draper’s assistant at the turn of the last century, unexpectedly inherits a fortune that propels him into high society. His childhood companion, Ann Pornick, watches with dismay as Arthur is made over in a new image by the beautiful and classy Helen Walsingham. 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.
Cameron Mackintosh said: “I am absolutely thrilled that our new version of the iconic British musical Half a Sixpence has gone off with such a flash bang wallop and been so rapturously received by both audiences and critics alike, breaking box offices records in Chichester. The show’s amazing cast is headed by the sensational new young star Charlie Stemp, who has put his own brilliantly original stamp on a part that fifty years ago launched Tommy Steele’s international theatre and film career. Everyone seems to agree that history is about to repeat itself with Charlie, whose performance is sending audiences into raptures nightly.
I’m also thrilled that the show is going to open in London at the Noël Coward Theatre, original home of another great iconic British musical Oliver! which premiered in 1960, three years before Sixpence opened up the street at the Cambridge Theatre. The spacious Coward stage will perfectly show off Paul Brown’s brilliant design.”
Jonathan Church the outgoing Artistic Director of Chichester Festival Theatre added: “Half A Sixpence has taken Chichester by storm. As a relatively rarely revived British musical we didn't quite know what to expect with our audiences. We needn't have worried, from the moment this incredible re-worked version burst onto the stage our audiences went wild. With standing ovations every night the show rapidly became the fastest selling production in the history of the theatre with many audience members visiting 3 or 4 times, setting a new benchmark for musicals in Chichester.”
Charlie Stemp and Devon-Elise Johnson are both only two years out of drama school and both recently completed the international tour of “Mamma Mia!”.
Ian Bartholomew’s extensive West End credits include the recent “Mrs Henderson Presents”, for which he received an Olivier Award nomination for Best Actor in a Musical; “Into The Woods” and “Radio Times” (for both of which he also received Olivier Award nominations), “Shakespeare in Love”, “Tommy”, “Dead Funny” and many roles for the National Theatre. The most recent of his many television appearances include “Maigret”, “New Blood”, “DCI Banks” and “South Riding”.
Emma Williams recently appeared as ‘Maureen’ in “Mrs Henderson Presents”, for which she received her third Olivier Award nomination. Her London theatre credits also include ‘Jenny’ in “Love Story” (which premiered at Chichester) and ‘Luisa’ in “Zorro”, both of which earned her Olivier Award nominations. She made her West End debut as ‘Truly Scrumptious’ in the original cast of “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” and went on to play leading roles in “Bat Boy: The Musical” and “Desperately Seeking Susan”. Emma’s screen credits include “The Parole Officer” with Steve Coogan, “Bleak House” with Gillian Anderson and, most recently, “Silent Witness” (both BBC).
“HALF A SIXPENCE” is directed by Rachel Kavanaugh who recently directed the Olivier nominated Seven Brides for Seven Brothers at the Open Air Theatre. The production is designed by Paul Brown, with choreography by Andrew Wright (Chichester/West End production of Guys and Dolls, the UK Tour of Barnum and forthcoming Moby Dick at the Union Theatre) with orchestrations by William David Brohn. The musical supervisors will be Stephen Brooker and Graham Hurman, who will also conduct; with lighting by Paule Constable, sound by Mick Potter and video design by Luke Halls. The original 1963 musical was written by Beverley Cross and David Heneker.
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Flash, bang, wallop, what a show! The undoubted hit of the summer...next stop the West End *****
What a triumph - this is a genuine masterpiece. A cast who are on fire with Charlie Stemp ablaze at the helm *****
If the first incarnation of this show was all Steele, this one's PURE GOLD. Stick it in the West End pronto. Charlie Stemp is a star in the making, sending the audience into raptures *****