"Joyous production of simplistic tale"
by Jill Lawrie for remotegoat on 28/07/16

Chichester’s summer musical is a new version of H G Wells’ much-loved story “Kipps: The story of a simple soul”. With new music and lyrics from George Stiles and Anthony Drewe, a fresh adaptation from Julian Fellowes, choreography by Andrew Wright and director Rachel Kavanaugh, this popular musical “Half A Sixpence” has all the ingredients to be a big festival winner.

Departing from his science fiction work Wells wrote this perceptive semi-autobiographical social satire, drawing on his own experiences and giving many insights into the Edwardian class system, his novel being based in the early 1900’s. Now 150 years since the birth of H G Wells producer and co-creator Cameron Mackintosh has brought together this fresh creation of a musical gem.

The story tells of working class Kipps leaving his home town and local girlfriend to work as a drapers assistant, and leaves her with a memento of half a sixpence. While working away he unexpectedly inherits a fortune and becomes engaged to a ‘posh’ girl Helen Walsingham whose mother and son have designs on his new found wealth! Kipps struggles to feel comfortable in high society and when he loses all his money it is with some relief and he happily returns to Ann his childhood sweetheart.

Designer Paul Brown has excelled with his imaginative staging making a replica of Folkestone’s bandstand that dominates the stage and moves between locations with a series of revolving stages and thus allowing for many inventive backdrops that include the Hope and Anchor, the emporium and Lady Punnet’s mansion.

The multi-talented cast, under the expertise of acclaimed choreographer Andrew Wright, guarantee a fast moving production with some terrific routines to “Pick Out a Simple Tune” and the ever popular “Flash Bang Wallop”. There are fine performances from Kipps’ work colleagues and Ann Pornick his first love played by Devon-Elise Johnson. Gerard Carey plays the swindler James Walsingham and he also gives an outstanding performance as the wedding photographer! There is plenty of enjoyment to be had from Ian Bartholomew taking the role of Chitterlow. Heading the cast is exciting newcomer Charlie Stemp making a stunningly accomplished debut on the Chichester stage as amiable, gentle-hearted Arthur Kipps, hopelessly out of his depth when being manipulated by the Walsingham family.

This joyous production had the packed appreciative audience on its feet following the final high octane reprise of “Flash Bang Wallop” allowing Stemp a thrilling moment as he stood alone on the stage receiving such thunderous applause.

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