Review: GUMS shine once again with the wonderful ‘Kipps’

By Oisín McGovern

Another trip to Killarney for the annual musical awards could well be beckoning for Galway University Musical Society as the students’ signed off on their annual show in style on Saturday night. Having scooped third place in the Best Overall Show category at the 2019 AIMS awards, GUMS could be due a few nominations this year.

GUMS have set a very high bar for societies who will be looking to stage the humorous and light-hearted ‘Kipps: The New Half A Sixpence Musical’. What was served up was a cheerful, upbeat, toe-tapping, hand-clapping comedic drama performed to a highly professional standard.

For their closing performance, the students were clearly having a ball of it. The exceptional standard of acting, direction and choreography was a just reflection on hours up hours of rehearsal and attention to detail.

Musical director Eoin Corcoran puts the cast through their paces
GUMS members during a choral rehearsal last year

Indeed, the society was more than deserving of hosting the Irish amateur premiere of ‘Kipps’ – a re-worked version of the 1960’s classic ‘Half a Sixpence’, featuring brand new songs and dialogue.

Set in early 20th century England, ‘Kipps’ tells the tale of Arthur Kipps, a poor draper who finds himself thrust into high society after landing a substantial inheritance. The tale that ensues is a heart-warming comedy in which Kipps – played by the outstanding Samuel Touhy – finds himself torn between new and former love interests.

Original and newly-written songs were simply delightful, ranging from slower melodic numbers like ‘Half A Sixpence’ and ‘Long Ago’ to insanely catchy toe-tappers like ‘Joy of the Theatre’, ‘Pick Out A Simple Tune’ and ‘Flash Bang Wallop’. Each was sung with equal measures of vigour, harmony and precision.

Under the command of musical director Eoin Corcoran (who also played keyboard) the 15-piece student-led orchestra were on form, providing a classical soundtrack reminiscent of the likes of ‘Me and My Girl’ and ‘My Fair Lady’.

Careers in theatre could beckon for the leading cast, who all displayed an abundance of talent. Every single leading performer made the character their own, attending to every detail right down to facial expressions and body language.

A promotional video for ‘Kipps’ shot on campus at NUIG

Whether it was Cockney twang or an exaggerated upper-class drawl, each character would have you believe they were actually English.

The cast were well-kitted out in high-cut boots, tweed jackets and long dresses, which all added to the authenticity.

Sam Tuohy was simply superb in the role of lead role of Arthur Kipps. His struggles in adopted upper-class social circles make for some very funny moments. He also threw some very impressive shapes when leading the dance in ‘Pick Out a Simple Tune’

Alice Cunningham (Ann Pornick) and Róisín Finn (Helen Walsingham) gave fine performances as Kipps’ competing love interests. Adam O’Connor (Mr Chitterlow) and Barry Sugrue (James Walsingham) were colourful and bombastic while Sean Murphy (Sid Pornick), Oisín Parslow (Buggins) and Eoin Mullins (Pierce) all play fine supporting roles as the over-worked drapers.

The choreography (arranged by Jodie Finn and Nia Northime) was simply exceptional. Some difficult routines were performed by dancers who smiled ear-to-ear throughout and clearly knew their moves. Each step, clap, twist and turn was fine-tuned to perfection over hours of practice and was performed in near-perfect synchronisation.

Similarly, credit to director Julie Quinn for the staggering level of detail went into the direction of both the chorus and main cast. Each cast member had their own distinctive mannerisms and not once did anyone stand idle. Whether it was hand gestures, facial expressions or awkward body language, each and every mannerism was well-thought-out and really brought the drama to life.

In a county with several musical and dramatic societies, it could well be argued that GUMS are the standard-bearers for musical theatre not just in Galway, but in Connacht. May GUMS continue to bring ‘The Joy of Theatre’ to Galway for many years to come!

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