It doesn't matter that most of the supporting players give amateurish performances, that the three women of the ensemble (with the sometime exception of Sara Sawyer) deaden every scene they enter into, and that director-choreographer Thomas Sabella-Mills overloads the musical staging with hackneyed steps and pointless busyness that often undermine the songs' romantic functions. The lovable Jon Peterson, in the leading role of Kipps, carries Musicals Tonight!'s heavily staged concert version of Half a Sixpence single-handedly. He's a bloomin' sensation.
Not only does the winsome Peterson impel the show's heartrending dramatic journey, establish its comedic English music hall sensibilities, and sing all the hit songs, but he shoulders the bulk of the dance responsibilities as well. Credited with contributing additional choreography, Peterson performs impressive soft-shoe solos in "If the Rain's Got to Fall" that constitute the production's finest terpsichorean moments.
Peterson is ably assisted by expert character acting from Robert Lydiard as Shalford, the mean owner of the shop where Kipps works, and Deborah Jean Templin as Mrs. Walsingham, the social-climbing mother of the sophisticated woman who temporarily captures Kipps' fancy. While Amy Griffin brings a plucky energy to the role of Ann, Kipps' true love, she needs to find a tenderness within the character to make her one-dimensionally harsh portrayal less off-putting.
This 1965 British-import Broadway musical -- with music and lyrics by David Heneker and a book by Beverley Cross, based on an H.G. Wells novel -- ridicules social and economic class divisions through the endearing rags-to-riches-to-rags story of a common shop clerk. Thanks to a lively melodic score teeming with show-tune treasures, vocal arrangements and musical direction by James Stenborg, and performers who are generally better singers than they are actors, this Half a Sixpence proves musically quite well-to-do.
Presented by Musicals Tonight!
at the McGinn/Cazale Theatre, 2162 Broadway, NYC.
April 1-13. Tue.-Sat., 7:30 p.m.; Wed. and Fri., 2 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.
(212) 868-4444 or www.smarttix.com.
Casting by Stephen DeAngelis.