CHESTERFIELD: Peak Performance’s sparkling production of The Merry Widow

Peak Performers dress rehearsal
Peak Performers dress rehearsal

No doubt useful and important work goes on in the diplomatic community, but anyone watching The Merry Widow could be forgiven for thinking it’s one party after another.

Franz Lehar’s glitzy, lighthearted operetta is Peak Performance’s spring production at the Pomegranate this week. It tells of a rich widow whose money can save a small country from bankruptcy; maybe someone should mention the idea to George Osborne?

Sumptuously costumed and played against lavish scener which represent the Parisien embassy, a palace garden and Maxim’s upmarket night club, it captures the glamorous, indolent spirit of 19th century life in the fast and wealthy lane. The gaiety of the era is well illustrated by some lively chorus work, and by the six Grisettes, Maxim’s dance troupe who produce a spirited, if brief, can-can in the final act.

Flirattion and romance, mainly illicit, is the order of the day. Camille (Kerry Hucknall) is in love with Valencienne (Joan Hopkinson), the highly respectable wife of the oblivious ambassador Baron Zeta (Mike Spriggs), and she reluctantly with him. Olga (Debi Alvey) flirted with anything in trousers. And Anna Glavari, the eponymous merry widow, is the object of every man’s attention – or rather, her considerable fortune is.

Sarah Potts puts her glorious soprano voice to work on familiar numbers such as Vilia and The Merry Widow Waltz, and turns her acting talent to Anna’s warm, open and sometimes irreverent nature.

Sparks fly between her and Count Danilo, her long-ago lover, played by Richard Potts, her husband in real life. A welcome new face on the Chesterfield stage, though well known to audiences elsewhere in Derbyshire, Richard makes Danilo impish and devil-may-care, a man about town who discovers he has a heart after all.

There are plenty of comic moments, largely from Njegus (Rob Hall), the ambassador’s camp, put-upon factotum, and also from the entire men’s chorus, whose high-kicking dance line has to be seen to be believed.

Peak Performance are gaining quite a following, and will continue to do so if future productions live up to this one.