Half a Sixpence

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For the film adaptation, see Half a Sixpence (film).
Half a Sixpence
Official Broadway Cast recording cover art
Music David Heneker
Lyrics David Heneker
Book Beverley Cross
Basis H.G. Wells's novel Kipps
Productions 1963 West End
1965 Broadway
1967 Film
2008 UK Tour
2016 Chichester Festival Theatre
2016 West End revival

Half a Sixpence is a musical comedy written as a vehicle for British pop star Tommy Steele.

Cameron Mackintosh financed and produced a rewritten version of the piece, which opened in 2016.


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 realizes 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. The set designer was Loudon Sainthill.


The show opened on Broadway in 1965, playing at the Broadhurst Theatre for 511 performances, also starring Steele. John Cleese played the small but crucial role of Walsingham, the stockbroker from a respectable family who embezzles Kipps' fortune. 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[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.

Revised Chichester and West End 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.[1] 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 will transfer to the Noel Coward Theatre in London's West End on 17 November 2016 with previews from 29 October 2016. It is currently booking until 11 February 2017.[2]


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 Original Score David Heneker Nominated
Best Direction of a Musical Gene Saks Nominated
Best Choreography Onna White Nominated


  1. ^ Gapper, John (2016-01-15). "Interview: Cameron Mackintosh". Financial Times. ISSN 0307-1766. Retrieved 2016-01-15. 
  2. ^ "Half a Sixpence to transfer to the West End". Retrieved 2016-08-31. 

External links[edit]