Noda Review for CAOS Half a Sixpence

Author: Mark Donalds

Half a Sixpence, based on H.G. Wells’ novel Kipps, was originally written as a vehicle for British singer Tommy Steele, who played Arthur Kipps, an orphan who unexpectedly inherits a fortune, and climbs the social ladder before losing everything and realizing that you just can't buy happiness. It premiered in the West End in 1963, followed by Broadway in 1965. It has been made into a film and revived many times since, and many of its songs have become popular standards.

Nick Williams, directing his first show for CAOS, has set high standards for anyone who follows him. Cast, music, choreography, set, sound and lighting were all first class. This superbly fresh and energetic production had pizazz and style in abundance, which the appreciative audience just lapped up.

A lot of thought had obviously gone into the simple but most effective set, with anything that needed to be moved put on casters, resulting in incredibly slick scene changes (made by cast and costumed crew), keeping up the fast pace of the show. The lighting had been equally well designed with every scene lit to perfection. The sound was pin sharp and the balance was just right so that cast was rarely overwhelmed by the band, hidden away in the pit. MD Luke Marshall and his band produced a great sound, with lots of brass and banjo. Michaela Shepherd’s choreography was the best I’ve seen in an amateur show for quite a while, and performed to perfection.

I think I might run out of superlatives for Adam Fox’s performance as Arthur Kipps. He is a really nifty and impressive dancer, a superb singer, eminently likeable and a lovely actor - just the right level of “cheeky chappie” for the part. A class act. He was perfectly balanced by Bee Anderson as Ann Pornick, another fine singer, dancer and actor. Her pain on discovering Kipps was marrying Helen was palpable and we had no doubt that she was struggling to live the life of the wife of a wealthy man – such moving scenes.

The three shop boys (Will McGovern as Pearce, Ryan Moss as Sid and Dan Farmiloe as Buggins) were a joy to watch - all bouncing off each other and always performing in the background. You could sense their friendship. Paul Bennett gave a stonking performance as budding playwright Harry Chitterlow – biff! He was irrepressible and energetic. Spot on!

The rest of the cast, chorus and dancers, including the two children, Kitty and Max, gave strong support, and the choral and solo singing throughout was excellent.

As the front cover of the (excellent) programme said, “Flash, bang, wallop, WHAT A MUSICAL!” This was a top-quality production, utterly professional from start to finish, with a high energy cast giving it their all, really making the show feel fresh and alive. My only regret was that I wasn’t able to see it earlier in the week, so that I could have come back to see it again!