In a surprisingly class-conscious stage adaptation of the HG Wells-inspired musical from the Downton Abbey creator on Sky, Charlie Stemp radiates kindly innocence

What’s in a name? Quite a lot in the case of the musical Kipps, which aired on Sky Arts on Wednesday night. The title comes from the 1905 HG Wells novel, but the show itself is a radical rewrite of an earlier musical version of the story, Half a Sixpence, which starred Tommy Steele on stage and film in the 1960s. Julian Fellowes wrote the fresh book, which he titled Half a Sixpence, in 2016, while George Stiles and Anthony Drewe added seven new numbers to the original David Heneker score. What we saw on screen was a filmed performance at London’s Noël Coward theatre in 2017.

So what’s the difference between the original Half a Sixpence and Kipps? I would say that the former – especially in the 1967 film version where Julia Foster co-starred with Steele – was essentially a romantic tale about how Artie Kipps finally finds true love with his childhood sweetheart, Ann. Kipps is closer to Wells’s original in that it is a comic parable about the English class system. I even wonder whether the novel influenced Shaw’s Pygmalion, which dates from 1912, in that it shows how in a rigidly stratified society accent determines status.

Kipps is repeated on Sky Arts at 3pm on 1 January.

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