Half a Sixpence

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For the 1967 film adaptation, see Half a Sixpence.
Half a Sixpence
Half a Sixpence.jpg
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

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


It is based on H.G. Wells's novel Kipps: The Story of a Simple Soul. Steele plays 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 seems to be tailored as a star vehicle for Steele's particular talents. This seems 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 the role of Ann. The set designer was Loudon Sainthill. It transferred to Broadway in 1965, playing at the Broadhurst Theatre for 511 performances. This production also starred 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 before the late 1970s and early 1980s musicals of Andrew Lloyd Webber.

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.

A revised version of the show will be performed in summer 2016 at Chichester Festival Theatre, co-produced by Cameron Mackintosh. Reuniting Mackintosh's Mary Poppins collaborators, it will contain an new book by Julian Fellowes and new songs by George Stiles and Anthony Drewe.[1]


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. 

External links[edit]