As with most remedies, a second dose usually does the trick – all washed down with a chocolate dipped banjo, covered in sprinkles. And so a second outing to revisit the string-strumming, toe-tapping, chandelier-swinging musical has certainly banished any ounce of gloom.
Julian Fellowes’ dazzling new adaptation, has deservedly earned a transfer to the West End after a sell-out run in Chichester, because quite frankly, it ain’t ‘alf bad. I was blown away by the infectious charm of this gorgeously gleeful production earlier in the year, and it’s a true test to the bucket load of talent, that has found rising star Charlie Stemp clata-janga-ringa-janging on the stage at the Noël Coward.
From the Downton Abbey creator, Half a Sixpence is a humbling tale set in Edwardian Kent about the penniless lad, Arthur Kipps, who inherits his Grandfather’s fortune. He’s a simple boy from modest beginnings and as he’s thrust into high society, his kind manners and sunny smile fail to win them over – but his bursting wallet certainly does. Artie’s a hopeless romantic and his heart gets torn between his childhood sweetheart and newfound love with Lady Helen; who’s a pretty decent posho.
My original gushing review from Chichester still stands, and it’s a joy to see Director Rachel Kavanaugh hasn’t lost any of the sparkle in the transfer. Stiles and Drewe’s music and lyrics are still hum-ably irresistible and Andrew Wright’s choreography still raises you to your feet as the show gains momentum, and reaches fever pitch with ‘Pick Out a Simple Tune’. As the words echo ‘music can unite us’ Half a Sixpence is truly a musical for the time, a comforting hug of sheer escapism.
The show really belongs to leading lad, Charlie Stemp, whose endearing grin has you captured from the get-go. He’s an absolute star with a relentless energy and fire-cracking moves. Equally his vocal talent shines and Stemp certainly has a glowing career ahead of him.
During the dark winter nights, this musical is as sunny as they come and such a joy. A little touch of happiness – not to be missed.
(Photo courtesy of Manuel Harlan)