Chess

Date 11th April 2017
Society Inspirations Theatre Co
Venue Hasland Playhouse
Type of Production Musical
Director Joshua Mason
Musical Director Melanie Gilbert
Choreographer Rebekah Petrillo

Report

Author: Joyce Handbury

Chess is a musical with music by Benny Anderson and Björn Ulvaeus of the pop group ABBA, and with lyrics by Tim Rice. The story involves a politically driven, Cold War-era international chess tournament between two men - an American Grandmaster and a Soviet Grandmaster - and their fight over a woman who manages one and falls in love with the other all happening within the glare of the media spotlight and political machinations. This production of Chess was being performed in a very small, compact theatre and I did wonder how they were going to manage the setting of it. They did this by having virtually no set, just a bare stage with a table and two chairs and by the clever use of projected images on to a back cloth that portrayed the many and varied locations etc. and, I must say, it worked extremely well. It has a very complex musical score and this young cast coped magnificently with it. The singing from all of the principals and from the ensemble was outstanding. Melanie Gilbert, the Musical Director, certainly worked her magic to produce such wonderful and harmonious outpourings. The two men competing for the World Championship title were brilliantly played by Daniel Mason and Evan Mason (no relation). Daniel was quite reserved in his portrayal of Anatoly Sergievsky, as befits the role, but the passion surfaced in all of his songs particularly in his delivery of ‘Anthem’ and in his duets with Florence. His rich, mature singing voice was just amazing. Equally impressive was Evan Mason as Frederick Trumper. He played the brash, arrogant American with great panache. He has great stage presence and his powerful tenor voice excelled in all of his songs non more so than in ‘Pity the Child’. A pivotal role is that of Florence Vassy, Frederick’s second and implied lover. It is a demanding role which Gabrielle Mason (Evan’s sister) took in her stride portraying the range of different emotions exquisitely in her excellent delivery of the many numbers she so effortlessly and gloriously sang. Especially praiseworthy was the duet with Svetlana ‘I Know Him So Well’ and ‘You and I’ with Anatoly which was so moving. The small cameo role of Svetlana Sergievsky, Anatoly’s wife, was beautifully played and sung by Chloe Worstenholme and I’ve already mentioned her duet with Florence which was stunning. Nicola Smith commanded the stage in an excellent performance as the Arbiter, the President of the International Chess Federation and tournament referee. Alexander Molokov, Anatoly’s second, was convincingly played by Richard Buxton as was Walter DeCourcey, who became Frederick’s boss at Global TV, by Connor Lovatt. Both had good, strong, powerful singing voices. The ensemble numbers were very effectively enacted with, when appropriate, the addition of innovative and impressive dancing that never seemed to be an ‘add on‘ but was so meaningful choreographed that it became an integral part of the action. Great lighting effects, applicable costumes, a small, but effective band with some brilliant and awesome singing all added up to make this a terrific show. Congratulations to Director, Joshua Mason, to Musical Director, Melanie Gilbert and Choreographer, Rebekah Petrillo for taking on this challenging show and delivering a truly wonderful production.