Date 29th October 2019
Society The Burton Musical Theatre Company
Venue De Ferres Academy
Type of Production Musical
Director Karen Hambleton
Musical Director David Blackwell
Choreographer Catherine Moore & Danielle Berriman
Producer Mike Mear


Author: Alan Bruce


Tuesday 29th October 2019

From the lyric pen of Sir Tim Rice the musical notes from Benny Anderson and Bjorn Ulvaeus. This deeply intense operetta is set in the Cold War era. With their government sponsored diplomatic entourages, mainly state agents vying for any upper hand this World Chess championship pits East against West.

The West's brash American champion Frederick Trumper, a strong performance by Jonathan Salt, arrives at the tournament with his second Florence.

Florence, portrayed wonderfully by Sharon Plummer, giving a tour-de-force performance with real focus, very precise and beautifully sung. Her team led by the manipulative Walter de Courcey, played subtly by Lee Smith, had anything but chess on their minds in similar fashion to the Soviet advisers.

East's challenger Anatoly Sergievsky, Andrew Last worked the role to perfection, a very charismatic stage presence, his second the mischievous Molokov, Andrew Hambleton who is always watchable, bringing a sinister undertone to proceedings as he plots for the communist state's enrichment on the world stage over the West's bloated posturing.

Arbiter, Oly Wright, controller of the tournaments tries to bring order and calm amidst the escalating tensions between the two camps, stylish and polished performance.

Ruth McNeil as Anatoly's estranged wife brought a distinct frisson to the inter-tangled web of political and romantic concerns, her duet with Florence in I Know Him So Well was outstanding.

Musical Director David Blackwell again produced outstanding results from his well drilled musicians and cast. The sound was crystal clear, the drums in particular were really punchy, in fact all of the instrumentation cut through with great clarity, backing the vocalists, who had a momentous volume of lyrics to sing in some numbers, the timing of the quartet cross vocals was superb. Great harmonies on Nobody's Side.

The band positioned above the stage behind a gauze was allowed an extended stage to be used to the full, the gauze also acted as a screen for back projections, Merano's Tyrolean view and the Bangkok city nighttime skyscape were particularly effective. Lighting was really excellent, maybe a side shield for the music stands facing the audience would have enhanced the back projections further.

Choreography again worked well with the confines of the Chess environment. The Golden Bangkok opening in Act II really went to town good visuals. Choreographers Catherine Moore and Danielle Berriman created some great visuals with the slick movement and style which was well costumed as well.

Director Karen Hambleton together with the rest of her skilled team gave us a real feeling of the darker days of the Cold War, together with the excesses of the 1980's. All of the participants always give their all to bring a show to their audience of the highest calibre, which starts with this team planning every detail, a job they seem to excel at.

Despite it now being what seems a strange setting for a musical, looking back to the 1980's when these tournaments were at there height, they were a televised global event. The intrigue and highly political aspect, using loved ones to force the outcome of events to your countries advantage wrapped up in heartfelt beautiful, rousing and tender lyrics such as the amazing Anthem, the show was always going to be emotionally charged as the best shows always are. Excellent show.