Reviewed by Jayne Knight
Flying in on the back of their 2018 show, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, this year’s production of Half a Sixpence arrived on stage with a Flash, Bang, Wallop.
Arthur Kipps (Arty), played by Daniel Parker, led us through his life, from leaving the orphanage to be apprenticed with Mr. Shalford at his emporium in Folkestone, to his happily settled life with children. A life that was told in pictures and song took us through his ups and downs of being an apprentice, to meeting his friend from the past, Ann beautifully portrayed by Annabel Pilcher in her first venture with BMOS. The title song reflects the feeling of Ann and Arty, as they meet again after many year apart.
Shalford (Patrick Pryce) requires his staff to have a system of efficiency and above all economy. Sid (Neil Ward), Pearce (Alex Nicholls) and Buggins, (Andrew Treacy) were efficient in ably supporting Arty, within the story as it unfolded and there was certainly no economy when it came to their acting and singing skills. They are joined by shop girls, Kate (Morgan Bebbington), Victoria (Charlotte Boyer) and Flo (Rosie Harvey) as they dream of having ‘Money to Burn’, when Arty mentions his desire to play a banjo.
Meeting with Chitterlow (Jake Genders) – a rambunctious thespian, was the turning point for Arty. He transformed from a young man content with his lot, into someone who craved more. The difficulties that this beset him caused amusement among the audience, whilst also an element of sympathy was required.
From abstinence to drunkenness within a short time frame, saw Arty change from a man of propriety, who knew his place in the world, to one who was worse the wear for drink, with the personality and characteristics of a mischievous child who believes that he has fallen in love with someone above his station.
The choreography and musicality, when he has finally come to his senses culminate in the ensemble celebrating his wedding day with the toe tapping ‘Flash, Bang, Wallop’. His aspirations however get the better of him. As Arty’s ideas spiral out of control, Annabel Pilcher sings the powerful and emotional song ‘I know what I am’, whilst Arty is still engaged in providing ‘All that money can Buy’, in which there is the gentle sound of a strumming banjo, which Arty now dismisses.
One final family that must be mentioned is the Walsingham’s (Carys Wilson, Jo Smith and Lee Navin). Their upper crust speech and snobbish behaviour, setting them apart from the working classes, is portrayed to the point of rudeness – that is until Arty has had enough, showing that there can be a huge void between class values.
The story comes to a close with a reprise of ‘Half a Sixpence’, in which the lyrics suggest that you are always better off than someone else, so be grateful for what you have.
In all, this show has something for everyone, a good storyline, based on the book Kipps by HG Wells, excellent music performed by Midland Concert Orchestra and a cast that have been superbly directed by Phil Johnson.
An excellent night out.
Tickets cost from £16.40 (plus £3.65 transaction fee).
Half a Sixpence is at the Alexandra Theatre in Birmingham from 11-15 June 2019, for more information or to book tickets visit www.atgtickets.com/birmingham or call the box office on 0844 871 3011.
The Alexandra Theatre, Suffolk Queensway, Birmingham, West Midlands, B5 4DS