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16 May 2012


Half a Sixpence
Civic Theatre, Chelmsford
Wednesday 16th May 2012

This simple and heart-warming story follows Arthur Kipps, an orphan who inherits a surprise fortune but finds that money cannot buy him love or happiness.  It was first performed in the West End in 1963 and made a successful transfer to Broadway two years later - one of the last New York successes with London roots until Andrew Lloyd Webber hit the musicals scene in the late 70s.

The set design for this production was minimal but effective with a lovely double doorway framed by two halves of a sixpence, the only item retained throughout.  Shop desks and other items of furniture were moved on and off as needed, all of which was done smoothly.  A hat or two among the ensemble could have been more securely pinned, and Kipp's on stage costume change left him looking slightly bedraggled, but generally costumes were all well-chosen with good differentiation between the classes.  There were a few examples of some wobbly follow-spotting, which marred the effect of Kipp's storytelling flashbacks and should perhaps have been replaced by fixed spots for those moments.  However the set-less backdrop was nicely lit to colour contrast between the scenes.

The orchestra were very good, MD'd by Gerald Hindes, although were too loud over the opening number to hear the slightly cautious ensemble.  The energetic group singing in the excellent 'Flash Bang Wallop!' proved that the company could generate the gutsy sound required to fill the auditorium, but this needed to be maintained through all of the ensemble numbers.

With the show having been originally written as a vehicle for Tommy Steele, it is little wonder that the part of Arthur Kipps is in almost every scene and every musical number - a daunting role undertaken by Toby Holland.  Charming and cheeky, opening with just the right amount of shy awkwardness and developing into a confident gentleman, his performance was excellent and Toby carried the show with an easy grace and a smooth, unfaltering voice.

The supporting principals all did a good job with their various characters.  Kipps life-long love interest Ann, played by Charlotte Reed, was full of character and verve.  Wearing her emotions on her sleeve, 'I Know What I Am' was a particularly touching moment.  Sarah Fletcher took on the superior Helen Walsingham, with her brother, the speculating cad, being played by Patrick Willis.  Shopkeeper Shalford was portrayed with menace by Tony Court, and eccentric thespian Chitterlow by Tony Brett.  Both gentlemen had mastered their opposite but equally colourful characters, although both needed more pace in their delivery at times.

Cathy Court directed this beguiling production, which despite some minor challenges was a very entertaining effort by Trinity.  Above all everyone on stage was enthusiastic and seemed to be having lots of fun, which was certainly infectious for the audience.  

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