Chichester’s big summer musical, Half A Sixpence, has had to recast its lead and is giving the part to an unknown.
Full casting was announced earlier today and Charlie Stemp, who has had small parts in Mamma Mia! and Wicked, is set to play shop assistant Arthur Kipps.
The part was originally earmarked for Bryan Dick but, due to a scheduling conflict, he has been released to continue appearing with Martin Shaw in the West End production of Hobson’s Choice.
Working alongside Stemp will be another relative newcomer, Devon-Elise Johnson who will play Ann Pornick.
Chichester Festival Theatre and Cameron Mackintosh’s new production of Half A Sixpence pitches the two young actors alongside three times Olivier-nominated actor Ian Bartholomew as Chitterlow, three times Olivier-nominated actress Emma Williams as Helen Walsingham, and Vivien Parry as Mrs Walsingham.
Arthur Kipps, an orphan and over-worked draper’s assistant at the turn of the last century, unexpectedly inherits a fortune that propels him into high society.
His childhood companion, Ann Pornick, watches with dismay as Arthur is made over in a new image by the beautiful and classy Helen Walsingham. Both young women undoubtedly love Arthur – but which of them should he listen to?
With the help of his friends, Arthur learns that if you want to have the chance of living the right life, you need to make the right choices.
Playing in the Festival Theatre from July, the musical version of H.G. Wells’s disguised autobiographical novel Kipps: The Story of a Simple Soul, is a completely fresh adaptation which reunites book-writer Julian Fellowes (Oscar-winning screenwriter and creator of Downton Abbey) with George Stiles and Anthony Drewe, the musical team which created the hit stage adaptation of Mary Poppins.
The score is inspired by, and features several of composer David Heneker’s songs, from the original production, including Flash Bang Wallop, Money To Burn and Half A Sixpence.
Charlie Stemp and Devon-Elise Johnson have both recently completed the international tour of Mamma Mia! Charlie has also appeared in Wicked in the West End, while Devon-Elise’s London theatre credits include Taboo, and Susan Parks in Billy Elliot as a child performer.
Ian Bartholomew’s extensive West End credits include Mrs Henderson Presents, for which he received an Olivier Award nomination for Best Actor in a Musical; Into The Woods and Radio Times (for both of which he also received Olivier Award nominations), Shakespeare in Love, Tommy, Dead Funny and roles for the National Theatre.
The most recent of his many television appearances include Maigret, New Blood, DCI Banks and South Riding.
Emma Williams is currently playing Maureen in Mrs Henderson Presents, for which she received her third Olivier Award nomination. Her London theatre credits also include Jenny in Love Story (which premièred at Chichester) and Luisa in Zorro, both of which earned her Olivier Award nominations.
Half A Sixpence runs at Chichester Festival Theatre from July 14-September 3.