THE MUCH-LOVED Half a Sixpence is of course always mentioned in the same breath as Tommy Steele who starred as Kipps in the original way back in 1963.
It really was a game changer for Steele who overnight swapped his image from rock ‘n’ roll rebel to ya’ mum’s favourite all-round entertainer.
So synonymous is Steele with the role (he starred in the film too) it remains to this day, a very hard act to follow requiring a special actor to pick up the gauntlet. Amazingly, the BMOS Theatre Company has found just such a cheeky chappy in Daniel Parker who hits us from the very first moment he is discovered leaning on the proscenium arch down stage right.
Parker looks like a cross between TV super hosts Ant and Dec with his cocky smile and well cut suit – he eases us gently into the magical musical journey of his downstairs-to-upstairs and back down again (but not quite) life story.
Kipps is an apprentice at Shalford’s Emporium, a department store in the snooty seaside town of Folkestone back in 1905.
Patrick Pryce captures the said frock-coated owner, Shalford perfectly – he’s smarmy to the punters – bully to the workers –stiff lipped and with a gait that’s suitably military.
Kipps’ fellow apprentices include energetic and endearing performances from Neil Ward as Sid, Andrew Treacy as Buggins and a special shout out to beaming from ear-to-ear 16-year-old scene stealer, Alex Nicholls as Pearce.
The three counter ladies with more than a nod to the staff of Grace Brothers in the classic ‘Are you being served’ are Rosie Harvey as Flo, Morgan Bebbington as Kate and Charlotte Boyer as Victoria. They do a fine job individually and sparkle as a gang of three.
The owner of the other half of the ‘half-a-sixpence’ (they split it when they were very young in the back streets of London and vowed to be together when they were of age) is Ann – played with girl-next-door adorability by the fine voiced Annabel Pilcher. Ann follows him to Folkestone a few years later to have her heart as broken as the sixpence.
Her love rival for Kipps is the upper class Helen – Carys Wilson (lovely singing voice) plays her with depth, coming across as a caring socialite rather a numpty-brained, ladder-climber. The same cannot be said of her mother Mrs Walsingham – Jo Smith plays her like Cruella Deville on nasty pills, likewise Lee Navin as her slippery, snake-tongued brother Walsingham.
Well, you do have to have some baddies or there wouldn’t be a story would there? These two do the dastardly bit with befitting aplomb.
Jake Genders does not hold back as Kipps’ would-be writer chum Chitterlow, Lucy Homer is your favourite barmaid as Laura and bearded Keir Poutney does his best to steal the scene as the photographer in the legendary ‘Crash, Bang, Wallop’.
The principals are supported by a well-drilled company who dance, sing and multitask as chorus and scene changers in a bevy of beautiful frocks.
Excellent choreography by Suzi Budd who has ensured discipline rules at all times; a band that got tighter as the evening went on under the baton of MD David Easto and the show is directed by the seasoned Stephen Duckham.
My quibble would be those in the chorus who are still miming – come on you’ve had six months folks, this is BMOS, Birmingham’s finest!
I will finish as I started – you won’t find a better Kipps than wee Daniel Parker (Tommy’s too old to be a contender these days!)
Book your seat, go see and you’ll come out happy!
Review by Euan Rose