You may recall the jaunty film in which Tommy Steele hopped around with a gor-blimey accent, and this uses many of the songs from it, but with some new lyrics and seven new songs by George Stiles and Anthony Drewe. So, confusingly, this is a musical with eleven songs by the original composer and lyricist David Heneker, from a book by Beverley Cross, with a kind-of new book by Julian Fellowes … and of course based on ‘Kipps’, by HG Wells!
Charlie Stemp is on leave, so Arthur Kipps is currently being played by Sam O’Rourke, whose infectious energy brings the draper’s apprentice who comes into money sharply to life. His childhood sweetheart Ann, who holds the ‘half a sixpence’ of the opening song, is played by Devon-Elise Johnson, who convinces as a gawky thirteen year-old as well as a growing women fighting her jealousy and irritation as Arthur becomes sideswept by his attraction to posh Helen (Emma Williams).
The toffs are fun, especially in a new number ‘Pick Out A Simple Tune’, and Ian Bartholomew offers good comic support as a Dickensian theatrical named Mr Chitterlow. There is a lot of leaping, swinging and boisterousness, and this is definitely a musical in which you can just sit back and be entertained.
Others worth mentioning – John Foster is a joy as both Kipps’ stodgy employer and Lady Punnet’s butler; while Jane How is very funny indeed as Lady P. Gerard Carey was better as the photographer in the ‘Flash, Bang, Wallop’ number than he was as crooked James, and Vivien Parry was all decaying aristocracy as Mrs Walsingham. Alex Hope as the idealistic socialist Sid and Bethany Huckle as lovestruck Flo were very good, too, and I enjoyed the new duet which gave insight into the feelings both Ann and Flo seem to hold for Arthur.
Running to early September, this is warmly recommended if you want an evening of fun, and if you can get to see O’Rourke have his moment in the spotlight, please do.