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Half a Sixpence
The Original Demo Recordings


Music: David Heneker
Lyrics: David Heneker
Book: Beverley Cross
Performed by: Tommy Steele, Roy Sone, Beverley Cross, David Heneker, Rita Williams and Joanna Rigby
Label: Stage Door Records
RRP: £7.99
STAGE 9052
5 055122 190523
Release Date: 29 September 2017

Not so long ago, hearing demos of musicals was not easy. You either had to be ‘in the business’ or have access to a collector, who secretly traded cassettes with tiny, hissy captures which quite often were not even approaching ‘listenable’. Then with the age of the internet, demo recordings gradually became more available, and indeed very often put out by the composers themselves, in order to promote their product. What are still quite rare, are new demo recordings of ‘pre-internet’ recordings. And even more so, of classic shows that we have come to love over the years. So it’s thanks to, again, Stage Door Records which has released an absolute gem.

Half A Sixpence is considered one of the most iconic and enduring British musicals of the 20th Century. The musical adaptation of H.G. Wells' novel Kipps featured music and lyrics by David Heneker and book by Beverley Cross and opened at London's Cambridge Theatre in March 1963 starring Tommy Steele as Arthur Kipps.

On 13 March 1962 (exactly one year before the show opened in the West End) the studio demo recordings for Kipps (the then working title for the show) were recorded at London's Olympic Studios. Performers featured on the demo recordings include Tommy Steele, Rita Williams, Roy Sone (Tommy Steele's understudy in the Original London production), Joanna Rigby and writers David Heneker and Beverley Cross. Backed by the Kenny Powell Trio, the studio demos effectively capture the magic of David Heneker's classic score and feature many of the stand out numbers from the musical including 'If The Rain's Got To Fall', 'Money To Burn' and 'Half A Sixpence'. The recordings also highlight several songs which would later be cut from the show and provide a fascinating insight into the development of the musical.

So just to let this sink in, we’re talking digitally remastered tracks, from the original studio master tapes, not heard for 55 years, of one of the best loved musicals ever. And they sound, well, like they were recorded yesterday. It’s so rare we get to hear things like this - we don’t get it in any other branch of the arts. We don’t get to see the rough cut, original scripts of films, nor rough notes of composers. This is history on a CD.

And they are a great listen. Whilst it’s fun listening to what’s changed over the years, and what tracks didn’t make it to the final show, it’s also reassuring how much of this did make it intact. The performances are great - especially Roy Sone, who went on to feature in the original London Cast of Divorce Me Darling. There is also a great bonus of commercial ‘popular’ recordings of some of the numbers.

Buy this, and enjoy probably the most important British Theatre historical recording yet to be released.


Ian Gude

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