You simply forget the cast are also the musicians as you become engrossed in the main story, which revolves around Freddie Trumper (James Fox) and Anatoly Sergievsky (Daniel Koek) as they battle not only to win the world chess championships, but the heart of Florence Vassey (Shona White). But added into the mix, we have international conspiracies and the arrival of Sergievsky’s wife Svetlana (Poppy Tierney) as well as a brilliant score to keep our attention.
The story moves at a swift pace, shifting from scenes in Merano to Bangkok, with the action unfolding on a visually arresting set by Christopher Woods (who also designed the costumes), the centrepiece of which is a raised floor that transforms into chessboard. The video design by Jack James adds a gritty reality as news bulletins are shown live on the back wall of the set.
Written by Tim Rice and ABBA’s Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson, the Chess score includes many musical numbers which have become familiar since the show first opened in the 1980s, including "One Night In Bangkok", "You and I" and "I Know Him So Well". The show is produced by Michael Harrison, who produced the tours of The Witches of Eastwick and Jolson and is Managing Director of Qdos Pantomimes.
Every piece of this production comes together perfectly, with each and every one of the cast delivering showstopping performances. There's no doubting that "Pity the Child" by James Fox and the reprise of "Anthem" by Shona White, will live with me for a long time.
This is a must-see production that will be rightly talked about for many years - it is simply a masterpiece of musical theatre.
(reviewed at Theatre Royal, Newcastle)