Based on HG Wells book ‘Kipps – The Story of a Simple Soul’ this popular musical opened at The Cambridge Theatre in London’s West End in March 1963, starring Tommy Steele and Marti Webb. The story tells of Arthur Kipps (Artie), and follows the penniless apprentice shop assistant and his relationship with childhood friend Ann. When parted as children, Kipps cuts a sixpence in half and tells Ann to look at it whenever she misses him.
Kipps unexpectedly inherits a fortune, climbs the social ladder, and loses everything before realising that love is more important than wealth or status and has been all along, and that happiness can never be bought. Still delivering on storyline and characters, this was the new version, with nine added/revised musical numbers by Warren Brown
The character of Kipps is a huge part, and is on stage for almost every scene with involvement in 17 Musical numbers (including Finale). Thomas Ledsham was well up to the task in his portrayal of Kipps, sustaining the same high level of performance throughout with great comic timing, audience rapport, movement and vocals.
Thomas was well supported by Anna Webster as Ann Pornick, Kipp`s childhood sweetheart who`d taken him at his word that they`d always remember each other. Anna gave an excellent performance, showing great vocal strength and control – especially during her number, “I know what I am”, you could hear and feel every word – no mean feat with an orchestra playing and a non-functioning microphone.
James Shields, Brandon Hunter and Duncan Ryan fulfilled the roles of Kipps` friends Sid, Pearce and Buggins with aplomb. There was a really nice balance and warmth between these three would-be suitors and their shop-girl friends, Kate (Becky Halpin), Flo (Gemma Allingham) and Victoria (Ashleigh Hartin), in both the exterior scenes and the shop scenes under the watchful eye of Mr Shalford (Mike Moorhouse), owner of Shalford`s Drapery Emporium.
The high jinx and japery in the drapery steps up a notch or two with the entrance of the eccentric playwright, Chitterlow- played by John Beamer. Great characterization, excellent diction and ebullience to match, John was a joy to watch- think a slightly toned down Lord Flash Heart` and you`ll get the idea. You could tell he, and the audience loved every minute of his performance.
A captivating performance by Catherine Andrews as upper-class Helen Walsingham provided a genuine rival for Kipp’s affections, with Ceri Hamer as a pretentious Mrs. Walsingham and Alex Morris every inch a toffee-nosed waster as Young Walsingham.
Smaller roles were played by chorus members throughout the show, while these are too numerous to mention, Kay McLaughlin as Laura, and Bob Bailey as the horse- sorry, dog carver and deckchair attendant deserve acknowledgement. The rest of the cast were well rehearsed, giving full justice to the musical numbers- the wedding and cricket scenes being particularly well executed.
The crew and cast managed the numerous scene changes very effectively, with only a couple of `vamps` needed throughout the show to cover any scene changes/hiccups. Lighting and sound, (as per) at the Grand were of the usual high standard (shame about Ann`s Mic at one point, but seemed to be soon rectified). I particularly liked the use of film footage in a couple of the scenes. The set conceived, designed and built by John Beamer (and no doubt, a handful of dedicated helpers) was, quite simply excellent purpose-built for the production and for the Grand itself these skills (and the people who use them effectively) are becoming increasingly harder to find- well done!
The orchestra and chorus/principals, under Musical Director Angela Potter were as usual, top-notch.
Direction and movement were of a really high standard, every person on-stage relishing being there, and it came across immensely- Sharon Bell, `Director and Musical Staging` must be really pleased with this production, and everyone involved in it.
Congratulations, Morecambe Warblers, on an enjoyable evening of live theatre, and thank you for your hospitality.
Flash, Bang, Wallop-What a show!
You can see the full report here