Half a Sixpence

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Half a Sixpence
Half a Sixpence.jpg
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

Half a Sixpence is a 1963 musical comedy based on the 1905 novel Kipps by H. G. Wells, with music and lyrics by David Heneker and a book by Beverley Cross. It was written as a vehicle for British pop star Tommy Steele.


The show is based on H.G. Wells's 1905 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. This 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. In the source material – Wells's novel – one of the first things that Arthur Kipps purchases with his newfound wealth is a banjo.

John Cleese of Monty Python fame had a small role. While performing in the musical, Cleese met future Python member Terry Gilliam as well as American actress Connie Booth, whom he married on 20 February 1968.



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]

Film version[edit]

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]

2016 revised version[edit]

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]

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 was extended until 22 April 2017. [4] It was extended, once again, until 6 May 2017. It extended again until 2 September 2017, when it closed.[4][5]


2016 West End Production[edit]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Broadway production[edit]

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[edit]

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. ^ a b c d e 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. London. Retrieved 15 January 2016.
  3. ^ Bowie-Sell, Daisy (31 August 2016). "Half a Sixpence to transfer to the West End". What's On Stage. London. Archived from the original on 11 October 2017.
  4. ^ a b O'Hanlon, Dom (2 January 2016). "Half a Sixpence extends booking at the Noel Coward Theatre". London Theatre Guide.
  5. ^ "Half a Sixpence to close in the West End this September". whatsonstage.com.

External links[edit]