TOMMY STEELE may have made the part his own in the 1967 movie of the same name, but when Musselburgh Amateur Musical Association (MAMA) step on to the stage of the Brunton Theatre tonight, all eyes will be on Ali MacDougall, who pulls on the straw hat and blazer of Arthur Kipps in the heart-warming, rags-to-riches musical, Half A Sixpence.
Set in Folkestone around the turn of the 20th century, the musical tells the story of Arthur, an orphan who is separated from his childhood sweetheart Ann, also an orphan, at the age of 12.
After meeting an eccentric actor/playwright called Chitterlow, Kipps – who works for the cruel draper Mr Shalford – learns that he is inheriting a fortune. Attempting to join the ranks of the upper classes, Kipps gets engaged to the wealthy Helen Walsingham, despite her snooty mother’s best attempts to interfere. Soon, though, Kipps realises that Helen is perhaps not his true love and that money can’t, in fact, buy you happiness.
The revised edition of this toe-tapping musical by David Heneker and Beverley Cross is based on the novel Kipps by HG Wells and contains new songs and lyrics by Warner Brown alongside favourite old show-stoppers Flash Bang Wallop! and, of course, Half A Sixpence.
Ali MacDougall says: “There is a real buzz among the company. We are really looking forward to show week and putting on this well-loved British musical. There are lots of fun numbers that we can really go to town with.
“There have been many challenges, as there always are with any new show, especially the grasp of the ‘cockney’ accent among others. It really is a fun-filled family show with lots of laughs and catchy numbers.”
Now in their 61st year, MAMA was founded in the autumn of 1950, when a few members of staff at the Musselburgh and Fisherrow Cooperative Society, along with some friends, got together to discuss the possibility of forming a company to perform a musical stage show. That successful meeting led to the decision to recruit interested local residents and start rehearsals for A Country Girl, which they performed the spring of 1951 – the Cooperative Musical Association was born although the name was later changed to Musselburgh Amateur Musical Association.
Today, MAMA continues to go from strength to strength, with more than 70 acting and non-acting members, ranging in age from eight to 80-plus. Although the company have staged a vast selection of musical theatre’s finest productions over the years, this will be the first time they have performed Half A Sixpence.
“We are relishing the challenge of taking on something completely new and presenting the East Lothian premiere of Half A Sixpence,” says MacDougall. “This year’s production stars many of MAMA’s familiar faces as well as some new local talent and is sure to leave you tapping your feet in the aisles and humming the tunes all the way home.”
Half A Sixpence, Brunton Theatre, Musselburgh, tonight to Saturday, 7.30pm, £11-£12, 0131-665 2240