‘No-one’s immune if you pick out a simple tune’ sings Arthur Kipps. I agree. Last night, the smiles and toe-tapping were contagious at the Youth Onstage West Midlands premiere of Kipps.
This fabulous musical - a reworking of Half A Sixpence - was the perfect vehicle for sharing the joy of performance. The skippy notes of a banjo always cheer and this, with a faultless orchestra, chimed the air with Edwardian charm. The costumes conjured the era well. Set design and its handling by stage crew was highly effective too, allowing for the rapid chapter-like telling.
The troupe love their craft and performing together. The ensemble numbers, composed of Aoife Freeman, Katie Hunt, Sam Turpin and many named-role performers, were superb. Given that early rehearsals were online, I applaud them all for the mastery of their dance and singing.
Conor Dodds and Caitlin Dodds as Young Arthur and Young Ann courageously opened with a heart-warming first scene of child’s-view innocence and play. Ellie Burley played Helen Walsingham with skilful variation of emotion. The money-orientation of Mrs Walsingham was notable from Esme Read, and Dan McCloskey carried James Walsingham’s financial bravado. Phoebe Mason and Ben Bremner worked the manner and physicality of Aunt Susan Kipps and Uncle Bert Kipps nicely. The socialist Sid Pornick was in good hands with Joe Burley. A counterpoint to James Berryman’s severe Mr Shalford, Lucy Forrester, Mark Cornaby and Erin Norman brought a jovial, endearing Miss Pierce, Buggins and Flo Evans. There was a charming effervescence to Nico Eynon-Colon’s Chitterlow. Gracie Evenden, Fran Hutchinson, Albie Moore and Paige Allen did stirling work bringing believable and entertaining characters Carshot / Lady Dacre, Lady Punnet, Hayes / Mr Maxwell / Barman and Miss Mary Ross / Miss Foster. Matty Brook and Lauren Chapman, as Arthur Kipps and Ann Pornick, brought charm, vitality and chemistry to the stage and like their fellow cast members, delighted the audience throughout.
The show closes tonight (Saturday 9 October) with a flash, bang, wallop!
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