Woodbridge: Flash, Bang, Wallop! Felixstowe Musical Theatre stage Half A Sixpence
- Credit: Archant
I feel old. Talking about Felixstowe Musical Theatre’s upcoming production of Half A Sixpence, Arthur Kipps actor Mike Cook remembers James Bolam played Mr Jones in the Tommy Steele film.
“Oh, the guy from New Tricks; yeah my mum told me that and I was like ‘no, that’s not him’,” chirps Emma Peake, who plays his childhood sweetheart Ann.
“I remember him from Only When I Laugh,” replies Mike, so it seems I’m not alone.
Made up of a cast unfamiliar with the tale of orphan Kipps – apprenticed to a tyrannical owner of a mercantile whose life changes suddenly when his late grandfather leaves him a pile of money – rehearsals started early to get them used to the songs.
“Being a younger cast, half of them were ‘what’s that’, ‘what’s that about’?,” laughs director Michael Crane.
“A lot of them won’t even remember Tommy Steele... not a clue some of them. Once they heard the songs they loved them and fell in love with the show.”
This version, playing at Woodbridge’s Seckford Theatre, is Bill Kenwright’s revamped version which starred Gary Wilmot as Kipps.
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“It’s got all the favourite songs in there, they’ve added one or two which is quite good.”
“There’s a slight twist too because there are some new bits,” adds Erica Bryan, who plays the nasty Mrs Walsingham.
“You’ve got to love, which wasn’t in the old one, the cricket match; a lovely added scene which is very funny. It’s a popular show and hasn’t been done, not round here, for a long, long while,” says Michael.
“I’ve directed the old one when I was with Company of Four and that is very different. The other one was a lot more, shall I say, serious. This is a lot more fun, more light hearted.”
Emma is loving rehearsals; she hadn’t seen the show before but had heard of Steele at least.
“It’s different to what I’ve done before because most of the stuff I’ve done are quite upbeat musicals, this is quite upbeat but in a different way. The songs are brilliant.”
Her character, Ann, doesn’t have it easy in the show; messed around quite a bit by the confused Kipps.
“No, she doesn’t really. Ann doesn’t have a clue what’s going on quite frankly and at points is an emotional wreck. It’s a rollercoaster of emotions,” she laughs.
“Without sort of spoiling it in the second half I’m pretty horrible to Ann,” confesses Mike.
“Yeah, just a bit,” laughs Emma.
When I caught up them, Mike’s mind in particular was focused on showpiece showstopper Flash, Bang, Wallop!
“That’s so much fun,” smiles Emma. “I got quite lucky because most of it I’m not doing anything specific, just at the end. Mike’s got this, this, this...”
“The first time we did it, there are five verses and I don’t think I got all the lines right in any of the verses,” laughs Mike, performing with FMT for the first time.
“They were all there, not necessarily in the right order,” quips Michael.
“I’m walking to work with the script, people have driven past and beeped, ‘oi what are you reading’ every day. Every waking hour it’s open somewhere along the line.”
“Sounds like me at the college,” adds performing arts course student Emma. “I’m revising... just not the work we’re doing at college.”
Ticket sales are going well. Due to the size of the new venue, smaller than the company’s historical home, the now closed Felixstowe Spa, people are advised to book in advance.
Both Erica and Michael hope FMT’s loyal Felixstowe and Ipswich following will make the trip down the A12 for the show.
“We’re hoping to attract a new audience,” says Erica. “The whole show’s got so much to give; variety, energy, classic songs, suitable for all ages...”
“I think it’s one of those that you could put on in 30 years’ time, it’s quite a timeless musical really,” concludes Michael.
Half a Sixpence runs from November 21-23, 7.30pm nightly with a 2.30pm matinee the Saturday. For tickets, call Felixstowe Tourist Information Centre on 01394 276770.