“Half a Sixpence”

Theatre Royal, Brighton • 6 October 2007 • 2:30pm
Music & Lyrics by David Heneker. Book by Beverley Cross, based on Kipps by H. G. Wells. New version by Warner Brown.

Directed by Bob Tomson. Musical Direction by Tom de Keyser. With Gary Wilmot (Kipps), Claire Marlowe (Ann Pornick), Zara Plessard (Helen Walsingham), James Dinsmore (Young Walsingham), Gaye Brown (Mrs. Walsingham)…

I consider myself lucky to have been able to see a production of this classic British musical, which originally opened in 1963 and was made into a movie four years later.

The title role is forever associated with Tommy Steele who, interestingly enough, is currently touring the UK in Doctor Dolittle. But Gary Wilmot makes the part his own with great finesse and panache. He is a thoroughly likeable actor, capable of conveying a broad range of emotions. His eleven o’clock number (more like five o’clock, under the circumstances), “What Should I Feel?”, was a knockout.

This touring production is far from opulent, of course, but the sets, costumes and lighting look professional and the small orchestra (six musicians) somehow manages to treat David Heneker’s score with some due respect. A score which is in turn joyous, atmospheric or sentimental.

Bob Tomson’s staging keeps the flow moving and Jason Pennycooke’s elegant choreography raises the energy level when necessary. A very enjoyable show altogether.

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