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  • REVIEW | Half a Sixpence | Noel Coward Theatre
Charlie Stemp as Arthur Kipps in Chichester Festival Theatre's HALF A SIXPENCE. Photo by Manuel Harlan.

REVIEW | Half a Sixpence | Noel Coward Theatre

David Heneker’s glorious score has been ingeniously adapted by George Stiles and Anthony Drew, who bring immense flavour and oomph to the already spectacular songs in this triumphant production of Half a Sixpence.

The 1963 musical has been revived masterfully and it is a fresh take on what we love about old-school musical theatre. Arthur Kipps, is a draper’s assistant that inherits a lot of money and therefore jumps up the social ladder. Whilst he then begins to dress and live like a proper gentlemen, his cockney accent and silly nature doesn’t allow him to properly fit in. Although he now has a chance with lady Helen Walsingham (Emma Williams), an upper-class woman who regularly visited his shop, he is torn between his infatuation for her and his childhood sweetheart Ann (Devon-Elise Johnson).

Gracing the stage as cheeky but charming Arthur Kipps, is Charlie Stemp, who is an absolute star that approaches the role so humbly. It is almost as if he was born to play this role, as he captures the hearts of every single audience member with his endearing charisma. Stemp is the epitome of a triple threat musical theatre performer, his movement is slick, his vocals are strong and his characterisation is effortless. Bringing an abundance of energy to his performance, he is musical theatre gold and will inevitably have a bright future on the West End.

Devon-Elise Johnson as Ann Pornick and Charlie Stemp as Arthur Kipps in Chichester Festival Theatre's HALF A SIXPENCE. Photo by Manuel Harlan

Credit: Manuel Harlan

The leading ladies in the show provide personality and sublime vocals. Alongside Arthur, Emma Williams is elegant as Helen, as she captures the Edwardian style excellently. However, Arthur’s childhood sweetheart Ann, is played by Devon-Elise Johnson who provides an outstanding performance with her feisty confidence but delightfully sweet tone.

Despite the strength of the lead performers, the ensemble are significantly superb in this production as the big musical numbers are what make Half a Sixpence so impressive. Stiles and Drew have renovated this production with flourishing adaptations and additional songs, such as Pick Out A Simple Tune which starts with Charlie plucking on a banjo at a fancy upper class party, and ends with all the ladies and gentlemen dancing boisterously with their knees up in the air.

The vivacious energy from the cast is something I don’t come across often, bursting with passion and character, every single ensemble number is faultless. This is enhanced by Andrew Wright’s sensational choreography -whether it is merely a scene transition, or a huge ensemble number like the iconic Flash, Bang, Wallop. Adhering to the style of the era, but giving it a contemporary twist, the choreography is imaginative and performed with excellent technique and flair.

With Charlie Stemp’s infectious smile and unbelievable talent, supported by an exceptional ensemble, Half a Sixpence is everything musical theatre should be and more.

Flash, bang, wallop, what a show!