The Archive: Flash, bang, wallop! Half a Sixpence is back

Home-grown musicals of the 1960s seem to have vanished into some kind of theatrical black hole.

The period between Lionel Bart and Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber – between Oliver! and Jesus Christ Superstar – was a fertile one for the British musical, and the songs rapidly became standards through continued exposure on BBC record request programmes such as Housewives’ Choice and Family Favourites. Harry Secombe in the title role of Pickwick and Keith Michell as the poet Browning in Robert and Elizabeth were a constant presence on the airwaves, while Charlie Girl was comfortably housed at London’s Adelphi Theatre for more than five years. Where are all these shows now?

Happily, not all is silence. Thanks to a lengthy mission on the part of Cameron Mackintosh to bring Half a Sixpence back into the public consciousness, David Heneker’s sparkling adaptation of Kipps, the 1905 novel by HG Wells, has been given a radical rebooting. There are eight new songs and a sprinkling of new lyrics, courtesy of George Stiles and Anthony Drewe, and Julian Fellowes has contributed a new book that goes back to the class preoccupations of the source novel. It has just opened at the Chichester Festival Theatre.