For our first trip back to a local amateur dramatics production since 2020, we were invited along to watch this successful youth company – Youth Onstage and their performance of Kipps – The New Half A Sixpence Musical. Youth Onstage have had many past members now performing professionally both here in the UK and abroad, so we were looking forward to seeing what the current members had to offer with this production.
The company have been massively affected by COVID with closed rehearsals from March 2020, 6 weeks prior to the show. Since then they have worked together on Zoom and even performed a Zoom pantomime. They were back to rehearsals for Kipps in January 2021 using Zoom to learn the music.
The musical is based on the well-loved H.G.Wells novel KIPPS; The Story of a Simple Soul and the original musical by Beverley Cross and David Heneker. With a book by Julian Fellowes and new music and lyrics by George Stiles and Anthony Drewe, Kipps –The New Half A Sixpence Musical delivers the classic storyline but is refreshed for a contemporary audience.
The classic romantic story focuses on Arthur Kipps, an orphan, who works as a draper’s assistant at Shalford’s Bazaar, Folkestone, at the turn of the last century. Kipps, an ordinary charming man, dreams of a better life. When he unexpectedly inherits a fortune that turns him into a gentleman overnight, he needs to find out who he really is with the help of his friends and true love Ann.
This Youth Onstage production is directed by Deb Brook, with musical direction by Musical Director Andrew Johnson and choreography by Amy Evans.
Considering the impact that the pandemic had on the production and the rehearsals for this show, you would never know lockdowns and Zoom rehearsals even took place from the enthusiasm and professionalism of this young talented cast. I have seen this show a few times over the years, even performed in it myself when I was younger, but this was my favourite production of the show that I have seen for a long time. There was a real energy from the entire company as they were boundless on stage right from the start with Young Arthur, Conor Dodds and Young Ann, Caitlin Dodds opening the show with a welcoming charm. The choreography from the company numbers were delivered with vibrancy and smiles all around. Flash Bang Wallop! was a particular favourite with Pick Out a Simple Tune a close second. The Kipps Orchestra delivered the bouncy, happy score with passion and heart.
I thoroughly enjoyed the colourful, elegant and cheerful costumes in this production which made each character and member of the company stand out with individual personalities. Alongside the costumes the scenery was equally impressive for a local theatre production with many set-changes and detailed props galore. The company had put lots of effort into making this show memorable for the audience.
The lead of Arthur Kipps was played by charismatic Matty Brook who delivered a charming, loveable portrayal of the character which had the audience rooting for him throughout the show. He had great chemistry with his apprentices, Joe Burley, Lucy Forrester, Mark Cornaby and Erin Norman who all worked in sync with each other. His childhood sweetheart Ann Pornick, was played by Lauren Chapman who was exceptional in her first leading lady role. You would never think that this was the first leading lady role for Lauren who has a bewitching quality on stage and her rendition of Long Ago was beautiful. This production really shone a light on the huge female talent that is in this company which was refreshing to see. From the mesmerising dignified performance by Ellie Burley as Helen Walsingham to the witty classy performance of Esme Read as bossy Mrs Walsingham.
The zany character of Chitterlow was played with the right amount of eccentricity and strong vocals by Nico Eynon-Colon, whose quirky performance was a highlight of the show for us. I also enjoyed the confident larger than life performance of Dan McCloskey as the villainous thief James Walsingham.
This production was a fantastic return to our local amateur dramatics scene since being away for so long. The entire company put smiles on our faces and deserved the rapturous applause at the end of the night. It just goes to show that this company, despite the obstacles they have had to face, can achieve anything with the attitude and talent that we witnessed last night.
Youth Onstage’s next show in May 2022 is The Addams Family. Visit their website for further details.
We say: “Flash, Bang, Wallop! what a hit of a show from this talented youth company!”