REVIEW: Half A Sixpence at the Chichester Festival Theatre

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The cast of Beauty and the Beast, Tim Lucas, Craig Golding, Jamie Papanilolaou, Kirsty-Anne Shaw, and Liz Garland. 
Picture Ian Hargreaves

REVIEW: Beauty and the Beast at New Theatre Royal in Portsmouth

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The Chichester-West End road must, surely, have a new traveller.

The Chichester-West End road must, surely, have a new traveller.

Tired old Half A Sixpence has received an injection of creative genius and is currently going off like an explosion in a firework factory just along the coast.

Additional songs, new orchestrations, breathtakingly inventive direction (Rachel Kavanaugh) and choreography (Andrew Wright), and a sublime cast all go to make – yes, I’m going to say it – the best evening’s theatre I’ve ever experienced.

I’m no fan of the original show, a vehicle for Tommy Steele, but here the Beverley Cross book and the David Heneker songs have been given a make-over by Julian Fellowes, George Stiles and Anthony Drewe.

And it works. Much splendid work leaps off the stage: Vivien Parry and Emma Williams (Mrs Walsingham and Helen), Ian Bartholomew (Chitterlow), Alex Hope, Callum Thain, Sam O’Rourke and Bethany Huckle (Kipps’ friends) and Jane How (Lady Punnet) and Devon-Elise Johnson (Ann) set the bar high and there are many rich cameos from the ensemble.

But Mr Steele? Kindly leave the stage. The unassuming Charlie Stemp takes Kipps, the part created for another man, and makes it entirely, completely and thrillingly his own.

Joyous.

Until Saturday, September 3.