The Rice/Anderson/Ulvaeus musical Chess never found the success of other 80's Rock/Pop opera’s that us Brits became famous for. The score for the show is quite wonderful (and at times camp) but its problematic book is a hurdle that it can’t seem to get over, no matter how many times it’s been reworked and rewritten.
However if you are looking for the definitive version of the show then look no further than Craig Revel Horwoods’ new production.
The story is simple, a romantic triangle between an American and Russian chess player during the world championship tournament, the lady involved is Florence (Shona White), a manager to one who falls for the other. Yes its set during the time of the cold war, yes it tries to touch on politics and media, but essentially it’s a love story.
Horwood’s production is visually striking, simplistically designed with lighting and video merged in to the square panelled set. It feels more in the vein of the recent concert production than a full blown musical but that’s no bad thing.
The cast are the productions strongest elements though, White is wonderful as Florence, her rendition of "Nobody’s on Nobody’s Side" was the nights highlight. Daniel Koek soared as Anatoly and the rest of the cast all delivered knock out performances with the ensemble doing incredible work on double duty as the shows orchestra as well.
The book is still weak (none of the characters are particularly likeable and are very one dimensional) but this striking production more than makes up for those flaws.
Chess may never be one of the musical greats but this production certainly is.
- Craig Hepworth