The Company: Kaaryn Cater, Fiona McLeod, Leigh Voss, Tania Redl, Karen MacKenzie, Jen
Church, Jenny Smith, Sian Smith, Johanna Hogendoorn, Tracey Waterman,
Gary Hollier, Jeff Agnew, Antoon Moonen, Sean Fitzgerald, Peter Leonard,
Dave Cooke, Andrew Winter, Peiter McGilligan, Christopher Rodley
Margaret Cain, Liz Opie, Trudie Ashford, Helena Sophocleous
Jean Hollier, Connie Barfoot, Judy Dunce, Nicci Tong, Gary Rogers,
Theresa Rogers, Bev Janes, Sue Jaimeson, Andrea Chapman, Michael Buck,
Bob Fluerty, Doug Neilson, Oliver Mander, Kathryn Naylor, Mary
Jarmulski, Tom Ransfield and Denis Paxie.
Wellington "Evening Post"
12 Saturday 1998
Intrigue and detente surrounds game of chess
What: Chess, book and lyrics by Tim Rice, music by Benny Anderson and Bjorn
Ulvaeus. Dir Kate Ghent, Musical director Howard Tong, Choreographer Nicki
Where: Porirua Little Theatre, Titahi Bay until September 26
Reviewed by: Ewen Coleman
While the premise on which Chess is based, the gamesmanship between two
international chess players from Russia and America as a metaphor for the Cold
War, may no longer be relevant, as a piece of musical theatre it still has a lot
going for it.
This is due to both the catchy, melodic music by the boys from Abba and Tim
Rice's ability to intertwine politics and sport around a love story which,
inicidentally, does not have a happy ending.
The story of Chess involves Anatoly Sergievsky, a Russian chess champ in Italy
to do battle with the American chess star, Trumper, a bit of a brat and Soviet
basher who turns nasty when his girlfriend Florence, a refugee from Hungary, falls
Anatoly defects to the West to be with Florence and a year later turns up, as
an American citizen in Bangkok (hence the hit song "One Night In Bangkok") to defend
his world title against another Russian.
This time his wife, Svetlana, turns up to compete with Florence for his love
(the other hit from the show "I Know Him So Well") thus creating a different love
triangle from the first half.
In the end though, it is all too much for Anatoly who re-defects back to
Russia leaving everyone's lives in tatters.
The production team of Kate Ghent, Howard Tong and Nicki Bramwell have pulled
out all the stops to overcome many of the complexities of the music, providing
depth and feeling to the show's many emotional strands in a production that flows
with coincidence in a very professional manner.
Exquisitely costumed, the show provides a visual and musical feast from the
opening number to the finale.
Sandy Leadbeater is superb as Anatoly, not only in the power and control of
his singing but in the sensitive and humane way he portrays the character.
Tia-Louise Minnoch as Florence is his equal in the way she handles her
character and together they complement each other well.
This is an excellent production of a difficult but entertaining show that has
everything expected from a good musical.
Tia Minnoch (Florence)
I guess the only comment I would like to make is a reference from
playing "Flo" and that is she MUST create expressions (facial & body
language) that sell the story...because we all know the plot is
grasp (which has not been difficult for our audiences I believe...which
huge credit to the way it has been directed), but because the
impact at the end of why she is so devestated and left with
wouldn't have the same kind of impact we are trying to portray if she
working all the time during the show with her personality, reactions to
stuff and her body language.....oh and yeah, any Florence HAS to be able
sing...no...not just sing...but ROCK!!!....but that's fairly obvious.
musical/vocal marathon and a competent singer is a MUST!
I've had to really work at creating a blend between a classical sound
pop sound as my tendency is to fall into my rock voice again...so that's
been a challenge...but one worth doing. I have managed to reach some
never thought possible.
Oh and also, to make her relationships with both men (lucky gal!) as
realistic as possible with heaps of feeling and passion....whether it is in
an argument with Freddy or a romantic embrace with Anatoly....she can't
always be seen as a cold bitch...need to see her vulnerabilty and her
passionate side. It's been a whirlwind of emotion every night I perform
her....sometimes feel so emotionally drained...I even caught myself crying one
night during the epilogue...got swept up in the drama...amazing.
Kate Ghent (Director)
The following is from a member of my chorus who passed on some of her comments to
me for your website. It's interesting to know how the chorus feel about a
production. Please also note that this is an amatuer production, so
rehearsing is done out of normal working hours. I should mention that I
included Svetlana singing "Someone Else's Story" after You and I reprise
in Act 2 and before Walter and Florence. It really works. Sveltana is
such a small part and when you are doing an amatuer production, you try
and use people as much as you can. My Svetlana has a stunning voice
(she played Fantine in Les Mis professionally) so "Someone Else's Story"
sounds wonderful and it is a lovely song.
Sian Smith (Ensemble)
If you do a production of Chess, these are my comments. First, give the company/chorus heaps of time to work on the harmonies. I
think it was great that we had nearly 4 weeks just rehearsing the music.
In my opinion that is one of the reasons why our production sounds so
good - we put a lot of work into the music/harmonies. The two songs
that I think we could have spent more time on are "Press Conference"
(the timing in that is soo hard) and "Endgame" (the harmonies (the alto
part of which contains a "devil's interval" - TR will know what that
is!) really give the scene its drama and atmosphere). In the same vein
I think that the number of women singing the soprano part doesn't need
to be very great. They always have the melody (well just about always!)
and are generally so loud that the harmonies can get drowned out even if
you have altos that can really belt!
Second, be bold and consider casting a woman as the Arbiter. Any alto worth
their salt could sing it easily! In some cases I think that the lyrics
the Arbiter sings sound better coming from a woman. Examples: "I think
both your constitutions are terrific so, now you know, BE GOOD BOYS" and
"I DON'T LIKE WOMEN, I don't take dope". I also like the idea of having
the Arbiter sing "One Night in Bangkok", although it may be hard for an
audience to accept that song from anyone other than Freddie due to
Murray Head making it so well known.
Third, I think having Svetlana sing "Someone Else's Story" is a great idea.
It gives that character a decent solo number (otherwise the part is
really quite small and doesn't have much of an impact - I don't remember
Svetlana at all from the professional production I saw in 1992) and I
think it fits better with the Svetlana character than with Florence.
Fourth, don't try and "update" the show. I think the story works well as a
kind of "historical" drama now that the Cold War has effectively ended.
Plus you have the whole 80s retro thing going for you! I really enjoy
playing a "Comrade" during the Arena and Endgame scenes - a lot of that
would "disappear" if the show was updated.