Milton Musical Society Regent Centre, Christchurch Jill Richmond 26 April 2023
What a triumph. Quite simply, get your tickets now and don’t miss out!! This is a production that you will remember for your lifetime. Clap your hands and stamp your feet, Kipps – the new half a sixpence is a flash bang wallop of a show performed at the beautiful Regent Theatre with a truly brilliant band and a performance fit for the West End.
Julian Fellowes, creator of Downton Abbey, wrote the 2016 book which he titled Half a Sixpence based on HG Wells’ semi auto-biographical 1905 novel “Kipps” from which the original show was created. Kipps sees seven new songs and a fresh score and a following more to the parable of the English class system ethos of the original book than the Tommy Steele (as Arthur) musical and more akin to the no doubt influenced from “Kipps” Shaws 1912 Pygmalion and subsequent My Fair Lady. Indeed, we are treated by Milton Musical Society to a fantastic nod to the latter during the new main rousing number “Pick out a Simple Tune” with a fantastic take on the monochrome attire of Ascott opening race day with splendid black and gold lavish costumes and a choreography spectacular which is a sight you will not want to miss and which epitomises the elements that make Milton Musical’s production a fantastical success under the direction of Jess Barras (who also plays Flo Evans) and Kirsti Warne.
The incredibly talented Daniel Murrell plays the draper’s assistant Arthur Kipps with enthusiasm, fantastic movement and ownership of the stage and a loveable charm that propels the cast with great energy along his journey of unexpected riches and into the life of high society and the clutches of the socially re-climbing Walsingham family, “All I want is my rightful position” declares Mrs Walsingham (perfectly played with great comedy and vocal strength by Charlotte Squibb).
Arthur finds himself under the charming guidance of Helen Walsingham played by Shannon Cook who performs with great presence, sophistication and confidence, her articulation and vocal talent outstanding, her solo “Believe in yourself” is beautiful. Although Helen steals his heart, he never forgets his childhood companion and true love Ann Pornick, performances captivatingly owned by Emma Hardy, whose every scene and song is a delight, a true star.
Arthur’s fellow apprentices never waiver in helping him be true to himself under the watchful eyes of the superior Mr Shalford (a good performance from Terry Barnett). Jess barras, plays Flo Evans with a strong voice and sensitive performance; Chris Meineck plays Ann’s brother Sid with great competence highlighting his acting skills brilliantly, Tim Berry excels as the loveable Buggins with strong stage presence and Jacob Corbin is endearing as Pierce, sustaining beautiful notes in his harmonies. “In the middle there’s me” is a song to look out for.
Milton Musical Society never disappoint, now in their 55th year, they have refined every element to a T. Peter Hall appeared in MMS first ever show in 1968 and is wonderful as Chitterlow, leading “The Joy of the Theatre” showing great experience and confidence.
The props, sets, hair, make up and sound, lighting are all on point and don’t miss out on getting a programme. The backdrops are excellent, and I particularly liked the contrast basic set for the Walsingham house. Incorporating lead characters into set clearance was shown in style with “You’ll never get anything right / I know who I am” at the end of Lady Punnet’s Musical Evening. “You don’t know the meaning of fun until you’ve been to one of my musical evenings!” cries Lady Punnet played delightfully by Suzanne Teather. The song is performed brilliantly and watching Emma Hardy expertly clear the set and perform is worth looking out for. Michael Pickford adds humour to proceedings as the untrustworthy James Walsingham. Aunt Susan (Pat Barnett) and Uncle Bert (Grahame Goodyer) provide lovely performances supporting Arthur.
I don’t have enough words, genuinely I’ve reached my limit, to give enough praise to this production so get your tickets now to see some fantastic choreography, note perfect songs and performances that leave you feeling great warmth for what is one of Milton Musicals triumphs. Performances continue up to Saturday 29th April,19:30 with a 14:30 Saturday matinee.