Solihull audiences have been treated to not one, but two productions from local company Peterbrook Players this year, to celebrate their 50th anniversary. With performances dedicated to the memory of Stephen Bickerton, there’s a real poignancy to this production week.
Rodgers and Hammerstein’s classic has lost none of its beauty and charm, and in the hands of the talented Peterbrook Players they have delightfully brought this show to life. Directed by Kirsteen Stafford there has clearly been hours, weeks and months of love poured into this production.
The vocals are sublime through the night, with harmonies that make the spine tingle and solos that soar through the auditorium. It is clear the cast are in safe hands with their Musical Director Paula Whitehouse, leading the band with great aplomb. There is a plethora of excellent performances, including the trio of supporting nuns: Alison Tumber, Rachel Perks and Chloe Rawson - shoutout especially to the colourful Lonely Goatherd scene.
Good comic support comes in the form of Andy Alton as Max Detweiler and Charlotte Boulton as Elsa Schraeder, whilst Cathy King proves that you only need a few moments on stage to make your mark with her hilarious cameo as Fraulein Schweiger.
The Von Trapp children are an absolute joy. The septet of Amelia Bickerton, Sam Weir, Jacob Young, Annie Stephenson, Alice Keddie, Lauren Meehan and Harlow Grant display an abundance of talent. They’re not only beautiful singers, but also well drilled in the polished choreography from Suzanne Ballard-Yates.
With such an iconic screen adaptation, it’s a daunting task to step into the shoes of any principal role, but the trio of Iona Cameron as Maria, Fiona Krober as Mother Abbess and Thom Stafford as Captain Von Trapp really make each character their own.
Krober is vocally stunning throughout the night, closing Act One with a stellar performance of Climb Every Mountain, whilst Stafford brings an aloofness to Captain Von Trapp which gradually fades away as he falls in love with Maria. A highlight is his emotive performance of Edelweiss.
Meanwhile Iona Cameron is on fine form in the role of Maria. She brings a vibrant, child-like energy to the role, blended with a real talent for comic timing. Her voice is stunning and she really does light up the stage each time she enters.
The story is set against the backdrop of the Third Reich movement and the rise of Hitler, and Peterbrook’s interpretation does not shy away from this. The addition of the historical references, scattered throughout, very much emphasise and remind the audience of what was happening not too far from the Von Trapp’s. Personally, these moments only required the video footage and historical background as it was poignant and striking enough.
There were some sound glitches through the night, but these were handled mightily well by the cast, who ploughed on as the issues were fixed quickly and efficiently. It’s a very small gripe for what really was a superlative performance.
The hills (and the Core Theatre) certainly are alive with the sound of music this week and Peterbrook Players have lovingly and wonderfully brought this show to glorious life.
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