Half a Sixpence

Half a Sixpence is a musical comedy based on the 1905 novel Kipps by H. G. Wells, with music and lyrics by David Heneker and book by Beverley Cross. It was written as a vehicle for British pop star Tommy Steele.

Half a Sixpence
Official Broadway Cast recording cover art
MusicDavid Heneker
LyricsDavid Heneker
BookBeverley Cross
by H. G. Wells
Productions1963 West End
1965 Broadway
1967 Film adaptation
2008 UK Tour
2016 West End revival


The show is based on H.G. Wells's novel Kipps: The Story of a Simple Soul. Steele played Arthur Kipps, an orphan who unexpectedly inherits a fortune, and climbs the social ladder before losing everything and realizing that you just can't buy happiness.

David Heneker (who had also worked on Irma La Douce and Charlie Girl) wrote both music and lyrics. Steele's importance to the show was made evident by his appearance in twelve of the musical's fifteen songs. Much of this musical was tailored as a star vehicle for Steele's particular talents which was especially evident in the musical number "Money to Burn": when Arthur Kipps realises that he is about to become wealthy, he decides that the first thing he will buy is a banjo. This is the cue for someone to hand Tommy Steele a banjo so that he can demonstrate his skill on the instrument. However, in Wells's novel, one of the first things that Arthur Kipps purchases with his newfound wealth is, indeed, a banjo.



Half a Sixpence was first produced in London's West End at the Cambridge Theatre on 21 March 1963, with Marti Webb, in her first leading role, playing Ann. Anna Barry also appeared as Helen. The production was directed by John Dexter, with choreography by Edmund Balin, and the set was designed by Loudon Sainthill. It ran for 677 performances.[1]


The show opened on Broadway in 1965, playing at the Broadhurst Theatre for 511 performances, also starring Steele. John Cleese played a small role of Walsingham, the stockbroker from a respectable family who embezzles Kipps' fortune. Cleese has stated in several venues that he can not sing, and was asked to mime singing-with no sound-during numbers he appeared in. Half a Sixpence was the last West End show to transfer successfully to New York City before the late 1970s and early 1980s musicals of Andrew Lloyd Webber.

Film version

A 1967 film adaptation starring Steele, along with Julia Foster and Cyril Ritchard, was directed by George Sidney and choreographed by Gillian Lynne. Lesley Judd, a future presenter of the BBC children's TV series Blue Peter, was one of the dancing chorus. Foster's singing voice was dubbed by Marti Webb.[1]

"I'm Not Talking To You", which had been excluded from the Broadway score, was subsequently reinstated for the film. Two new songs were also written: "Lady Botting's Boating Regatta Cup Racing Song (The Race Is On)" and "This Is My World".

2016 revised version

A revised version of the show opened at the Chichester Festival Theatre to rave reviews and standing ovations in July 2016, co-produced by Cameron Mackintosh. Reuniting Mackintosh's Mary Poppins collaborators, the show features a new book by Julian Fellowes and new songs by George Stiles and Anthony Drewe alongside revisions of Heneker's originals.[2] The cast included Charlie Stemp as Arthur Kipps, Devon-Elise Johnson as Ann Pornick and Emma Williams as Helen Walsingham.

Following the success in Chichester, the production transferred to the Noël Coward Theatre in London's West End on 17 November 2016 with previews from 29 October 2016. It initially booked until 11 February 2017.[3] Due to five-star reviews and audience acclaim, the show extended through 22 April 2017. [4] It extended, once again, through 6 May 2017. It extended again until 2 September 2017, when it closed.[4][5]

2015 North Wales version

In 2015, a production created by the Llangollen Operatic Society was performed at Llangollen Town Hall. Banter

2017 Independent UK version

A production created by Theatre in the Community was shown at the Pavilion Theatre in Rhyl from 9–12 August 2017, with matinees on the 10th and 12th. Ryan Thomas Ebbrell played the lead role of Arthur Kipps, earning rave reviews.

This production celebrates the 50th anniversary of the feature film of the same name and nearly 55 years since the original West End production in 1963.


2016 West End Production

Awards and nominations

Broadway production

Year Award Category Nominee Result
1965 Tony Award Best Musical Nominated
Best Producer Allen-Hodgdon, Stevens Productions Inc. and Harold Fielding Nominated
Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical Tommy Steele Nominated
Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical James Grout Nominated
Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical Carrie Nye Nominated
Best Author Beverley Cross Nominated
Best Original Score David Heneker Nominated
Best Direction of a Musical Gene Saks Nominated
Best Choreography Onna White Nominated

2016 West End revival

Year Award Category Nominee Result
2017 Whatsonstage.com Awards Best New Musical Nominated
Best Actor in a Musical Charlie Stemp Won
Best Actress in a Musical Devon-Elise Johnson Nominated
Best Supporting Actor in a Musical Ian Bartholomew Nominated
Best Supporting Actress in a Musical Emma Williams Won
Best Direction Rachel Kavanaugh Nominated
Best Choreography Andrew Wright Won
Best Costume Design Paul Brown Nominated
2017 Laurence Olivier Awards Best Actor in a Musical Charlie Stemp Nominated
Best Actor in Supporting Role in a Musical Ian Bartholomew Nominated
Best Actress in Supporting Role in a Musical Emma Williams Nominated


  • Half a Sixpence: An Original Cast Recording - Decca SLK4521 (1963)[1]
  • Half a Sixpence: The Original Broadway Cast Recording - RCA Victor LOC1110 (1965)[1]
  • Half a Sixpence: The Original 1962 Demo Recordings - Stage Door STAGE9052 (2017)[1]


  1. Dietz, Dan (2014). The Complete Book of 1960s Broadway Musicals. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield. p. 298. ISBN 9781442230712.
  2. Gapper, John (15 January 2016). "Interview: Cameron Mackintosh". Financial Times. ISSN 0307-1766. Retrieved 15 January 2016.
  3. "Half a Sixpence to transfer to the West End". Retrieved 31 August 2016.
  4. https://www.londontheatre.co.uk/theatre-news/news/half-a-sixpence-extends-booking-at-the-noel-coward-theatre-in-londons-west-end
  5. http://www.whatsonstage.com/london-theatre/news/half-a-sixpence-close-west-end-noel-coward_43534.html?cid=homepage_news
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