Thursday, March 30, 2017, 19:30PM
Noel Coward Theatre, London
Starring: Sam O’Rourke (u/s), Rebecca Jayne Davies (u/s), Emma Williams, Ian Bartholomew, Vivien Parry, Gerard Carey
I had heard so many great things about the show and couldn’t believe it has taken me 5 months into the London run to see it, but last Thursday I finally did! And it was worth the wait!
The story follows a simple haberdasher and aspiring musician Arthur Kipps as he comes into some money left by a late relative. With his new-found fortune, he must decide if marrying into money is the right thing to do, or whether to follow his heart and be with his childhood sweetheart.
I enjoyed the atmosphere for a Thursday night, the entire audience leapt to their feet at the first ensemble bows which is rare and brilliant to see (and be a part of!) And I was close –2nd row – which was amazing! It’s just a shame the theatre wasn’t full. I’m pretty sure they only had the Stalls and Circle open, and anyone booked for Grand Circle and Balcony was upgraded, which is sad to see, but hey, the show’s open until September at least, so they can’t be doing that badly!
There is a lot to love in the show: the Music is just beautiful with this new version of the show featuring mainly new music by Stiles and Drew which I just loved. It suited each moment, the harmonies were all on-point and the show-stopping moments, rightfully brought the house down.
As Olivier nominee Charlie Stemp was on holiday, in the role of Arthur Kipps was understudy Sam O’Rourke. O’Rourke stole pretty much every scene he was in, bringing cheeky-chappy-like-charisma, stunning vocals and energetic dancing. If he was that good, then I can’t wait to go back and see Charlie! Any excuse to see the show again Number 1! Arthur’s childhood sweetheart Ann was also an understudy, Rebecca Jayne Davies. She and Sam had such a natural chemistry and the emotion may have hit me when they harmonised by moonlight! Chills!
The entire cast performed vocally and physically to perfection. Once again Emma Williams and Ian Bartholomew command the stage – having previously seen them on the same stage last year in Mrs Henderson Presents – the difference being Emma has a lot more clothes on this time! But in all seriousness, both of them are deserving of their Olivier nods for these roles. Both fantastic, especially Ian this time. His characterization was on point, as were him and Sam’s harmonies during “The One That’s Run Away” and his main number, the clever tongue-in-cheek “The Joy of the Theatre” was great.
A hilarious stand-out was Gerard Carey as both Emma Williams’ dad James and the drunken Photographer. I saw Carey as Lord Farquaad (on the UK Tour of one of my top musical obsessions Shrek the Musical) and he killed it then, so my expectations of his performance were high, and he exceeded them. During my two favourite moments, the show-stoppers ‘Pick Out a Simple Tune’ and ‘Flash, Bang, Wallop’ he had me in stitches! Those two moments as a whole was incredibly staged and performed, and received two big audience applauses.
Act Two was defiantly superior to Act One, while I enjoyed the first act a lot, the second blew it out of the water. The choreography throughout was stunning, inventive and constantly had my eyes glued to the stage. My only criticism of the show, if I had to be nit-picky, it that I thought Arthur would have more of a solo show-stopping type of moment. I mean, he does have a moment in which he dances and performs a great number, but I couldn’t help feeling that I wanted a little more. Literally how great would it have been – and trying not to spoil it if you haven’t seen it – but the final scene of Act one, he burst into an incredibly staged sequence. That moment I found was asking for it – he’s torn between two lives, so the emotional motivation and audience investment is there – and the rain!! They make it rain on stage. How great would a Billy Elliot ‘Angry Dance’-inspired sequence have been then?!! But instead he just walks off stage and the first act ended. I was a little disappointed at that.
So overall, the show was brilliantly different and echoed that much-needed presence of the classic musical, which, while a love a good screen-to-stage adaptation, we need more of because last year’s Show Boat was one of the most incredible pieces of theatre, and well, anything, I’ve ever seen! I feel a couple of more visits to Sixpence may be in order because I have to see Charlie do it and I know I’ll grow to love it more and more as I see it again. Bring on the next visit!