What’s this? She’s writing about Half A Sixpence again? Yes, yes I am. I know that I have reviewed this show twice already and written a long and somewhat rambling opinion piece about it, but for a show this spectacular, there is a lot that I feel I need to say.
This most recent theatre to the beautiful Noel Coward theatre marked my seventh visit to the show and I could very easily continue to watch it again and again without ever growing bored of it. I am really not quite sure what I am going to do with myself when this work of art closes next month. I have three more visits planned before then, as I find myself more and more desperate to see it as much as I possibly can. For this visit, I made a flying trip to London, 18 hours in the city, but the rapid turn around and following tiredness was so very worth it.
Seeing as I have seen the show seven times now, you can probably guess that I have seen many a cover in different roles, and you would be right. And the incredible covers and understudies of Half A Sixpence were once again on show at this performance (Tuesday 1st August). I have seen a number of these covering roles in the past, but this performance had two understudies on that I had not seen before. In the third role I have seen her play in this show (Aunt Susan and Mrs Walsingham beforehand), Annie Wensak played Lady Punnet for this evening’s performance. Her portrayal was very different to that of Jane How in the role, and I very much enjoyed seeing her take on this wealthy lady of high society role. She appeared a little more harsh in her portrayal, looking down on Arthur and rejoicing with the Walsingham’s over the dream of his fortune. With Wensak on for Lady Punnet, it was left to Jaye Elster to cover her regular role of Aunt Susan amongst other roles. Alongside David Burrows as Uncle Bert, Elster played the comical role well, earning plenty a laugh from the audience.
With Callum Train on holiday for the week, Tim Hodges stepped up to the role of apprentice Pearce alongside Charlie Stemp as Arthur, Alex Hope as Sid, Sam O’Rourke as Buggins and Bethany Huckle as Flo. Whilst his take on the character was quite different to that of Train’s, he did very well, interacting with his fellow shop workers and entertaining the audience with his comical lines and humorous facial expressions. Half A Sixpence is a show that truly highlights the power of the understudy and the swing. With a cast as 27, including 7 swing roles, you truly never see the show twice. I think I’ve only seen the same cast show twice (and that was when I saw the show twice in one day).
Another understudy that really stood out to me was Jennifer Louise Jones, on as Helen Walsingham. I love that every cast member has a different take on their cover roles in this show as once again Jennifer’s Helen is different from that of Emma Williams. Jones had the audience hanging on her every word as she tries to guide Arthur through the world of the wealthy and has everyone feeling for her by the end, even though as an audience member you are cheering on the relationship of Arthur and Ann rather than that of Arthur and Helen.
With many cast members stepping up to different roles, their normal ensemble roles were covered by the incredible sixpence swings. There would not a show without the swings. With Matthew Dale on as shop worker Carshot and architect Maxwell, his ensemble track was covered by David Birch, incredible with his dancing in the huge ensemble numbers. Only wish I could have been there to see him play Athur Kipps. Other swings on for this performance included Dawn Williams and Samantha Hull.
As for the rest of the cast, what can I say without repeating myself. The cast of this show are just all incredible and perfect in their roles. Charlie Stemp leads the show with an energy that can only be likened to that of the energizer bunny, from the beginning of the show to the end, he never stops. I, for one, am so excited to see him in the title role of Dick Whittington at the London Palladium this Christmas. I am sure that he is going to be a hit with the audiences there just as much as he is with audiences at Sixpence. The cheer that rips through the audience when he takes his bow could blow the roof off of the theatre. Devon Elise Johnson shines in the role of Ann, feisty and full of heart with a voice to die for. Alex Hope and Sam O’Rourke are delightful as Sid and Buggins, heart warming in their relationships with those around them and brilliantly funny in songs such as Money To Burn.
In conclusion, the cast of Half A Sixpence are incredible and I don’t think there is any other way that I could describe them. As a whole, they have enough energy to power the sun and the power to make the entire audience grin bigger than the Cheshire cat. This show makes me happier than any other show and the West End is not going to be the same without it, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to look at the Noel Coward theatre in the same way again once the signage is gone. The cast, from the leading man to the swings, shine in every scene, sending happiness and joy from the stage all the way up to the balcony. There is nothing else quite like the feeling of the being in the audience at this beautiful and wonderful show.