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Regional Reviews by Fred Sokol

Half a Sixpence
Goodspeed Opera House

Also see Fred's review of Home

Half a Sixpence

Half a Sixpence, at Goodspeed Opera House in East Haddam, Connecticut through September 19th, demonstrates just why this intimate stage which works perfectly for musical comedies, remains relevant. A show which is neither memorable nor dazzling, Sixpence is, nevertheless, very pleasant summer entertainment that most anyone could enjoy. Should you be planning to bring a youngster, be advised that one character finds herself in a risque position during one of the numbers.

H.G. Wells wrote the novel upon which Half a Sixpence is based. The play transpires in Folkestone, England in 1900 and it tells the story of Arthur (better known as Artie) Kipps, who makes a meager living as a shop clerk. Actor Jon Peterson plays Artie with joie de vivre and constant energy. Artie's employer is Shalford (James Judy) and it seems, at first, that our protagonist will forever remain a lower-class worker. He remains fond of Ann (Sara Gettelfinger), a friend from childhood. Artie does not see Ann often and hopes she will recall him when she sees the half of one coin he gave her.

The important subtext of the musical concerns class, and this is in full display during the first number of the performance, "All in the Cause of Economy." Presented by young men working in the shop, this David Heneker tune states the complaint these guys have with Shalford.

Later, though, Kipps finds he inherits enough money to keep him happy forever. He is forever fond of Ann but somehow is slated to marry Helen Walsingham (Julia Osborne). He briefly elevates his status in society, and soon thereafter loses most everything—except, of course, Ann. Ann and Artie definitely care for one another and you could bet your house that this feeling will endure. In the end, however, Helen, too, is quite civil to Artie.

What's quite exhilarating about the Goodspeed show is song and dance. Choreographer Patti Colombo has the cast scooting around, kicking up a storm, spinning like crazy and, basically, having a very good time. That's infectious, and most theatergoers catch on and share the spirit. She has more than twenty-five performers going full tilt.

The plot is rags to riches to rags, something of a switch.  H. G. Wells, like his leading man Artie, was once a draper. Wells and Beverly Cross, who wrote the book, make statements through dialogue about distribution of wealth. Gordon Greenberg delivers precise direction, meshing well with Colombo's up-tempo dance numbers.

Set designer Rob Bissinger supports the production and provides atmosphere with many a multi-colored drop (one replacing the next) at the rear of the stage. David C. Woolard's outfits are bright and lively—consistent with the show.

Peterson provides an excellent performance. His hair flying at odd angles, he is genuine throughout. When he comes into money, he is both surprised and overjoyed. Losing it, he's philosophical. Always in motion, the actor is tough to resist. Sara Gettelfinger (Ann) does a fine job. Her strength is her ability to find a character.

Half a Sixpence continues through September 19th at the Goodspeed Opera House in East Haddam, Connecticut. For ticket information, call (860) 873-8668 or visit www.goodspeed.org.


Photot: Diane Sobolewski


Also see the current theatre schedule for Connecticut & Beyond

- Fred Sokol



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