This year Gala Opera take us back to the good old days of the music hall, with larger-than-life characters and songs so catchy you will be singing them all the way home.
The story begins with the parting of childhood friends Kipps and Ann. Kipps cuts a sixpence in half and tells Ann to look at it whenever she misses him.
The show opens years later and finds Kipps working as an apprentice in Mr Shalford’s drapery emporium in Folkestone. When Ann arrives in the town looking for him, they meet and rekindle their childhood friendship.
But as you would expect, things do not run smoothly.
Kipps meets Chitterlow – an eccentric actor/playwright – and finds out that he has inherited a fortune. He leaves the shop and is drawn into high society where he meets and falls in love with Helen Walsingham. They are engaged, but Ann finds out before Kipps can tell her and is furious and upset at how he has treated her, telling him she never wants to see him again.
Kipps finds high society isn’t all it’s cracked up to be and after a showdown with Helen’s tyrannical mother, Mrs Walsingham, he calls off his engagement, realising it is Ann he loves. He begs her to take him back.
But the course of true love is not quite ready to run smoothly, as Kipps new-found wealth causes a rift in their relationship, jeopardising their marriage.
However, when Helen’s brother, and Kipps’ financial advisor, looses all Kipps’ cash in dodgy speculations, Kipps and Ann reconcile, realising that all that matters is they have each other. And even when Kipps comes into more money unexpectedly, they realise, that really, love is all they need.
There is a life and lightness to this year’s production harking back to the great musical theatre productions of old.
Jeff Thomson’s magical hand has transformed this revamped version into something that is a sheer joy to watch with some inspired casting.
Without doubt Clark Eaton Turner is the star of the show with his amazing performance in the starring role as Kipps.
This is a role he was destined to play for he has it all – the humour, the voice – and he carries it all off with apparent ease, while being ably supported by his shop boys who are all in fine voice, especially during the four-part harmony numbers early on in the show.
Once again, leading lady Carla McColgan, who plays Ann, shines, with a showstopping voice that always leaves you wanting to hear more.
Ivor Lumsden had us all in stitches as the flamboyant, eccentric actor Chitterlow, over the top and down the other side again – a show stealer in all the best possible ways.
Ruth Johnston as Helen Walsingham, Kipps other love interest, lights up the stage bringing a touch of class to her performance, along with newcomer, the very talented Callum Love (one to watch for the future), who plays her snooty brother the Young Walsingham.
The big set pieces, including standout numbers, Half a Sixpence, Buy me a Banjo and the classic, Flash Bang Wallop, were wonderfully choreographed by Sara Gatton, putting the superb company through their paces with not a cast member out of place.
This year’s show is bright and breezy, fun and fabulous, a revived classic that has a whole lot of life left in it thanks to this splendid production.