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Even with additional input from Downton’s Julian Fellowes, this new adaptation of the sixties musical based on H G Wells’ semi-autobiographical novel “Kipps: The Story of A Simple Soul” may not have the most sophisticated plot.

But what Cameron Mackintosh’s production (a transfer from Chichester) lacks in depth it certainly makes up for in sheer exuberance and style, not to mention a couple of real show-stoppers, sumptuous costumes and a winning central performance from young  Charlie Stemp with a grin as wide as Tommy Steele’s, the man who originated the role back in 1963.

Director Rachel Kavanaugh keeps things whizzing along on an attractive revolving set as Arthur leaves his childhood sweetheart (Devon-Elise Johnson’s Ann) to take up a position as an apprentice in a Folkestone draper’s shop. There he catches the eye of posh young customer Helen (Emma Williams) and, when he unexpectedly inherits a fortune, of her greedy mother and dodgy brother, too.

credit: Chris Nash

Composer George Stiles and lyricist Anthony Drewe have successfully added some new songs and tinkered with the old ones.  “Pick Out A Simple Tune” has Arthur temporarily breaking down the class divide when he takes his banjo to a sedate music evening  (full marks to choreographer Andrew Wright who even has one chappie swinging from a chandelier) and, at the other end of the social scale, “Flash, Bang, Wallop! “ is an irrepressibly exuberant  celebration in the local pub.

There’s no denying that young “Artie” is rather too careless in the way he treats his women, but Stemp’s beaming performance - and an energetic supporting cast giving its all - ensure that you too, will go home smiling. 

Noel Coward, St. Martin’s Lane, WC2N 4AU

Tube: Leicester Square

Until 11th February 2017  

£14.75 - £79.75 (+ premium seats)

halfasixpence.co.uk

 


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Theatre Review: Half a Sixpence
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