The Duke of Devonshire’s restored private theatre at Chatsworth House is the setting for a rare public performance this week. when spectators have a golden opportunity to follow in the footsteps of royalty.
Queen Victoria was entertained there, as were the Prince and Princess of Wales (who became King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra).
The theatre is a work of art, a mini Painted Hall in which your eyes are drawn to the dark artwork on the ceiling, the gold-leaf lamps on the walls and the plush red velvet drapes decorated with lavishly embroidered tie-backs.
This stunning venue also boasts superb acoustics, perfect for Peak Performance’s sell-out production of songs from Les Miserables and Showboat, which is running until Saturday, September 15.
Picking the world’s most successful musical is a clever move, especially with a film version of the story on its way to the big screen later this year.
For those unfamiliar with Les Mis, a narrator sets the scene by summarising scenes from the story of revolution and revelation.
The company injects power, passion and poignancy into the show’s trademark songs, with stunning performances from guests Andrew Lockwood as Javert, Richard Potts as Marius and Sarah Potts as Cosette.
Two deeply moving performances from the younger members of the company mark them out as stars of the future. Charlotte Barlow, playing the dying waif Eponine, puts great emotion into her performance of A Little Fall of Rain, which she sings in a trembling voice as she is comforted by Richard Potts’ Marius. Twelve-year-old Darcy Thorpe embodies the innocence of the young Cosette as she leads the company in the song Castle on a Cloud.
Light relief from the rather heavy subject matter comes from Rob Hall as the lively inn-keeper Thenardier and Freda Chapple as his plain-speaking missus.
Directed by Mike Spriggs with musical direction by Nick Stacey, this production is one of contrasts. The dressed-down sombre story of Les Mis gives way to the richly costumed, lively tale of Show Boat.
The songs sparkle like jewels around the necks of the ladies chorus. Favourites such as Ol’ Man River, sung by Richard Potts, and Bill, performed by Freda Chapple, go down a bomb with the audience.
Andrew Lockwood and Sarah Potts head the cast in the roles of Ravenal and Magnolia, giving an exquisite rendition of Make Believe.
Josh Holmes and Heather Spink breathe youthful life into their choreographed party piece I MIght Fall Back On You.
And in the best of music hall traditions, Julie Fletcher leads the audience in a singalong of After the Ball which is fine for those who know the words.
Queen Victoria would have been amused.