Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

August 8, 2008

“Half a Sixpence”

Goodspeed Opera House, East Haddam, Conn.
Through Sept. 19, 2008
by Bernadette Johnson

Goodspeed patrons have come to expect nothing but high quality musical productions. As usual, “Half a Sixpence” fits the bill. A musical comedy extravaganza directed by Gordon Greenberg, a rags to riches and back to rags tale, it provides the kind of feel-good entertainment for which Goodspeed is famous.

Based on the 1905 HG Wells novel “Kipps,” “Half a Sixpence” follows the adventures and misadventures of Arthur Kipps, a shop clerk in an English seaside town who suddenly inherits a fortune and leaves all behind in order to claim his place among the “la-di-dah” gentry and make a mess of his life in the process. Among the “discards” is Ann, his lifelong sweetheart, who holds the token of his love, half a sixpence.

Jon Peterson, a newcomer to Goodspeed, is first-rate in the demanding role of Arthur Kipps. Peterson is never off-stage and never out of the spotlight, whether acting, singing, dancing or cavorting. His thick Cockney accent, a bit difficult to adjust to at first, complements his quirky personality, and his societal faux-pas and often-exaggerated silliness, demand terrific energy and conviction to keep the character believable. But this is not a one-man show, and there are many stand-outs among the cast, among them Jeff Skowron as the aspiring playwright Chitterlow, whose every entrance provokes an audience reaction, and Sara Gettelfinger, whose vivacious yet demure disposition well suits the jilted Ann.

The show is fast-paced and high-spirited. Choreographer Patti Colombo, who wowed Goodspeed audiences with 2005s “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers,” has outdone herself once again. From banjos to beer steins to umbrellas, sights and syncopation keep frenetic pace with the relentless momentum of such numbers as “Money to Burn” and “Flash Bang Wallop,” and this amazing ensemble doesn’t miss a step.

Scene changes are so seamless and free-flowing as to be imperceptible. Robert Bissinger’s backdrops materialize out of nowhere, either gliding up from the floor or floating across in panoramic fashion. To sum it up, “Half a Sixpence” delivers and you won’t be disappointed.