Flash, bang, wallop – the new Kipps comes to Shaftesbury

IF you are old enough to remember Tommy Steele in his heyday, you almost certainly will recall his brilliant performance in the musical Half A Sixpence, in which he played the Cockney draper’s apprentice who unexpectedly inherits a fortune. More than 60 years after its West End debut, the revamped, renamed Kipps is the summer show choice of Shaftesbury Arts Centre drama group, who will be performing it from 11th to 20th July.

The original show had some catchy tunes, but it largely fell out of fashion until 2016 when it was given a 21st century makeover by theatre impresario and producer Sir Cameron Mackintosh and was a big hit at that year’s Chichester Theatre Festival.

Renamed Kipps, the Half a Sixpence Musical, the new show reunited Mackintosh’s successful Mary Poppins updating team of George Stiles and Anthony Drewe to adapt David Heneker’s original songs, with a new book by Julian Fellowes.

The original Half a Sixpence, based on HG Wells’ novel Kipps, was a vehicle for Tommy Steele, who played the title role in the West End in 1963, on Broadway in 1965 and in the 1967 film adaptation. It was a vehicle for Steele’s talents because he featured in 12 of the 15 songs.

It’s the story of Arthur Kipps, who is one of the apprentices working for a penny-pinching draper. A chance encounter leads Kipps to discover that he is the heir to a fortune. Forgetting his childhood sweetheart, Ann, he tries to become a gentleman and falls for the daughter of a customer of his former employer. But after her brother tries to cheat Kipps out of his fortune, Ann criticises him for not being true to himself.

As well as the best-known song Flash Bang Wallop, other songs from this sunny and delightful show are If The Rain’s Got to Fall, and Pick Out a Simple Tune. The 32-strong Shaftesbury cast, aged from ten to 80, is led by Robert Stanley as Kipps, Georgina Cleat is Ann Pornick, Martin Porter is Chitterlow and Molly Walker is Helen Walsingham,

This show, directed by Rosemary King and the orchestra and 24 musical numbers under the experienced baton of musical director David Grierson, is a big project for the arts centre, with 100 costumes and a lot of scene changes.

Pictured at an outing to the seaside are the apprentices – Kipps (Robert Stanley), Buggins (Harry Phillips), Pearce (Henry Porter), Sid (Oliver Card)) and Flo (Ella Cluett).

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