1988 Half a Sixpence

BWT Review

Cockney Tale is a musical success

THERE have been many changes in the last 90 years but perhaps the greatest has been the closing of the social gulf between the rich employing classes and the working class. The impossibility of a man crossing this divide is the theme of the musical Half a Sixpence presented by Witham Amateur Operatic Society this week at the Public Hall.

The success of the show depends very much on the leading man and in Mick Hemstedt, a newcomer to the Society Witham has a winner. He a good stage presence and can project his songs, even the lesser known ones such as ‘//If I Had Money to Burn//’ with bubbly Cockney cheerfulness - he moves and dances like a trouper. Alison Cox plays his girl-friend from his poverty-stricken days. Her lively personality enables her to more than hold her own with the leading men when they are acting together.

Three fellow male shop assistants add a strong supporting singing and dancing group. They managed to give individuality to their characters. Stewart Adkins as a young socialist. Howard Brooks as a man of the world and Gary Smith as a perpetual pessimist. The young women shop assistants played by Kath Adkins, Janet Collins, Liz Ladd and Yvonne Mitchell have less opportunity to develop their characters but matched the men in their singing and dancing.

Cathy Swann was responsible for the choreography, a feature of the show, giving many opportunities to turn the stage into a riot of swirling colour. It took a little while for the show to gain momentum and Brian Brown the musical director took some of the music at a very stately pace.

The 20 different scenes are well handled. Tony Court played the shop owner as an oppressive, offensive employer who was obsequious to his customers. Nicholas Clough made a fine larger than life alcoholic thespian. Simon Mitchell brought conviction to his part as a corrupt lawyer though it was a pity that his singing was limited to one brief quartet. Alison Brewer as an upper-class fiancée was a fine contrast to Alyson Cox and Edna Starling and Elisabeth Miller played the stately, unsympathetic ladies.

Derek Collins, the producer, handled his large cast with his usual firm hand in this ambitious production.

James Bright