A musical based on the novel "Kipps" by H G Wells
Book by Beverley Cross
Music and Lyrics by David Heneker
New Version by Warner Brown
At the Epsom Playhouse
Director : Nic Ash
Musical Director: Jon Mizler
Assistant Musical Director: Jon Aspital
Arthur Kipps - Jon Ford
Ann - Emily Evans
Helen - Rebeca Cenamor
Chitterlow - Chris Evans
Mrs Walsingham - Julie Parker
Young Walsingham - Darren Flick
Sid - Andy Robson
Buggins - Russell Thompson
Pearce - Paul Featherstone
Kate - Nicola Howlett
Victoria - Caron Ireland
Flo - Charlotte Verrill
Shalford - Dilip Patel
Laura - Geraldine Birch
Jeremiah - Jamie Wagstaff
Deckchair Attendant - Gary Herring
Gwendolin - Diana Springate
Edith - Rachel Hearne
Young Kipps - Ben Lynton
Young Ann - Olivia Wilson
Children of Kipps and Ann - Isabel Anderson, Freddie Wilson
Reporter/Photographer - Des Wilby
Toast Master - Len Martin
Vanessa Aves, Heather Congdon, David Don, Melanie Dunn, Christine Evans, Jill Howlett, Louise Laithwaite, Chris Rumbold, Linda Sutch, Gareth Thomas, Rose Verrill, Harry Wilkinson, Sandra Zeffman
Joanna Barnett, Molly Haynes, Anya Herring, Anna Thompson, Thea Walter, Sam Wilson
Photos by Pat Waugh and Emily Evans - click here
Review by John Barnes - NODA
This updated version of the original stage show provides more for the whole cast; but it is difficult not to bring to mind the film version.
FRONT OF HOUSE: A warm welcome from FOH and members of the company.
THE PROGRAMME: A well produced A5, 10 page programme was full of information on the show, the production team and cast, and was easy to read in the theatre. It was good to see other local societies' shows listed and the mutual support given.
MUSICAL DIRECTION: The Band under the direction of Jon Mizler ensured a great sound with a good balance.
CHOREOGRAPHY: Dawn had devised good choreography especially for the big numbers.
SCENERY: by Scenic Projects whilst minimal it set the scene for each of the numbers.
MAKE UP: all looked natural under the stage lighting.
COSTUME: had been selected well and appropriate to the era of the musical, with a good contrast between the upper and lower classes.
PROPERTIES: were all suitable for the period.
LIGHTING & SOUND: Both were well balanced; the lighting well designed to provide the right atmosphere when required.
THE PRODUCTION: Jon Ford as Kipps competently led the cast and was well supported by his shop colleagues – Andy Robson (Sid), Russell Thompson (Buggins), Paul Featherstone (Pearce), Nicola Howlett (Kate), Caron Ireland (Victoria) and Charlotte Verrill (Flo) and very effective in all their numbers. Emily Evans (Ann) sang and played her role well with a good partnership for Kipps. We had a fine interpretation of a strict employer from Dilip Patel as Mr Shalford. Rebeca Cenamor (Helen) gave a convincing performance in her debut with ELOC; the rest of the Walsingham family were well portrayed with Julie Parker as the matriarch and Darren Flick as the devious brother. Chris Evans (Chitterlow) interpreted the eccentric actor playwright with great aplomb. All the cameo parts were well executed, with the Ensemble and Children providing good support in the large production numbers. The busy emporium scenes and the Flash, Bang, Wallop! Wedding scene, which is so well known, was done well and very entertaining. Congratulations to everyone involved with the production.
Sardines Review by John Maslen
If it was the intention of the production team to leave the audience feeling happy and invigorated at the end of this heart warming performance, I am sure they succeeded from the audience reaction and reception to this well-known and well-loved piece.
Epsom Light Opera Company have an impressive record of achievement of quality as recognised by awards and evaluation, and their high production values were in evidence throughout in all aspects, on musical levels, choreography, staging, costumes and settings - and not least in attaining the required feel of the Victorian period to some extent by virtue of all these devices. Nic Ash the director would have had his work cut out no doubt in marshalling a large cast - including 10 children! - and having to overcome the impossibility of breaking down rehearsal sessions to work intensively with small groups as the piece requires the presence of the main man Arthur Kipps (played by Jon Ford) for practically all the scenes. Jon had a gargantuan part - not only being the central character with masses of dialogue but having involvement in no less than 19 of the 25 musical numbers! - and stuck manfully to his task - a very fine effort.
I found the character of Kipps - determinedly and stubbornly, perhaps a little gracelessly, resistant to any change or improvement or a wider outlook - simplistically drawn, even allowing for 19th century values, and somewhat unlovable - for this we must of course acknowledge H G Wells the original author of the classic novel 'Kipps' on which the musical is based, and adaptors to the text for musical staging purposes such as Warner Brown. I felt that the ghost of Norman Wisdom and to an extent the influence, subliminal or otherwise of Tommy Steele, hung over Jon's performance and persona as the look-at sweet little-me, humble and harmless, to his detriment - the show is very much a vehicle for the main character to the extent that other performances can be unjustly overshadowed - so if you empathised with Arthur Kipps you were to receive as an audience member plenty of pleasure. I have to say that as the second half unfolded and Arthur's agonised dilemmas were finely encased in good dramatic scenes with his loved one Ann and a lovely ballad, that Jon broke free of the received character in stereotype and implanted his own personality by the end.
The opening number has great charm, mirroring Arthur as now contrasted with him as a boy-a lovely touch this - and a neatly executed change of set (later in the show some set changes could have been swifter and slicker) as the company essayed a drapers shop in Folkestone in the number 'A Normal Working Day' and on to All in The Cause Of Economy - a little Gilbert and Sullivan influenced nuances in these melodies and intricacy of lyrics - the numbers were pleasant in their execution and reception but somewhat unmemorable. During the opening scenes we are introduced to the proprietor of the shop Shalford played with stern Victorian outlook by Dilip Patel - a performance not lacking in distinction but could I felt have been more assertive and bullying still. Dilip also had a tendency shared by some of the other cast members to declaim to the auditorium rather than engage with whosoever happened to be part of the conversation-a natural and understandable tendency but one I believe to be reined in a touch!
Kipps had left his childhood sweetheart Ann to seek his way in the world and she reappears later only to be heartbroken by Kipps disaffection indifference and betrothal to another; Ann is played by Emily Evans and for me was the outstanding performer in the company. She struck the right note of innocence warmth and vulnerability in her speech delivery, tone and accent, sang beautifully and gave compelling performance in the powerful dramatic scenes towards the close of the play. Running a close second in terms of well judged performances was a peach of a cameo from Julie Parker as the archetypal cold hearted snobbish upper class matriarch Mrs Walsingham - potential mother in law of Kipps - whose persona of exasperation and no nonsense dismissal of Kipps' values hit the right note without descending into caricature. Chris Evans had what may be called a dream part as the expansive overblown flamboyant actor/would be entrepreneur Chitterlow clearly loved by the audience and played in a big no holds barred fashion - well done but a little too over the top for me!
I mentioned the characteristic of the musical numbers being a shade unmemorable, albeit pleasant, and early on we have the title song which is completely the opposite. What a lovely and versatile song this is - the sympathetic melody, tender and lilting, and heartfelt words can be employed in various styles and differing speeds, as was shown to great effect in the first half - beautifully performed by Jon Ford - and reprised in the second half in charming fashion, with pleasing dancing, by Jon Ford and Emily Evans. In reference to dancing, honourable mention must be made of Dawn whose choreography especially in the larger cast numbers was imaginative, brisk and snappy, and good looking. More musical numbers in Act 1 bore Dawn's stamp - the well executed Banjo song (this is it?) - a proper gentleman sweetly sung by a chorus of girls - whilst Too Far Above Me was a shade underwhelming, more than made up by the ensemble excellence of If The Rain's Got To Fall and the technical excellence of The Cricket Match.
Duets were a strong feature of the musical numbers and this was maintained by the charming pairing in song of Chitterlow and Kipps in Act 2 on The One Who's Run away. The other stand out musical number is of course Flash Bang Wallop - great feel to this song was given by the ensemble and especially well coordinated foot stamps and hand claps-well done again to Dawn. The reworking and/or additions to the play to present as a more feasible piece to a 21st century audience, without losing sight of the flavour of the period, came into its own in the form of the additional song by Jon Ford to outline his agony of decision -What Should I Feel - and was a high point of the second half before the touching scene involving Ann and Kipps and the medley of reprises to joyfully climax the show.
Going back to the narrative, which entails the message that wealth is of no value in seeking happiness, decency and peace of mind - somewhat crudely depicted by implausible events - it seemed to me that believability and conviction in the unfolding of events is loose and sacrificed for the need to include all the music (25 is a lot of songs!). One did not get the impression for a moment of any coming together of hearts and minds of Kipps and Helen to the point of being engaged (Helen being nicely played by Rebecca Cenamor) or any reason why the high born Walsingham family and Helen would attract Kipps; nor was the first meeting since childhood of Kipps and Ann convincing-his indifference and coldness simply came across as baffling and out of character. Finally on dramatic portrayal I got no sense of drama excitement and elation on the major news of Kipps coming into serious money - these aspects could have been more strongly pointed.
Apologies to those sterling members of the cast particularly the children not mentioned by name - but plaudits to all concerned in this entertaining well produced play, ably assisted by musical director Jon Mitzer and assistant MD Jon Aspital and all those at back of house in a technical capacity. Oh and please visit Epsom Playhouse some time soon - it is a sumptuous venue!