Thursday, 6 April 2017

“Chess” by ESNA Players
Loughborough Town Hall
The story involves a politically driven, Cold War-era chess tournament between two men—an American grandmaster and a Soviet grandmaster, Anatoly—and their fight over a woman who manages one and falls in love with the other.
The music, written by Benny and Bjorn from Abba, and the lyrics by Tim Rice mean that these songs are bound to be more intricate to sing than at first glance, but that doesn’t seem to be an issue for this talented cast.
Gareth Wynne is Musical Director for this lush score. There are some gorgeous choral pieces as well some magnificent rock arrangements, making this soundtrack an aural delight. With several different musical styles, this score has something for every musical theatre lover.
Jon Orton (Walter) is normally seen in the depths of the orchestra pit but he’s ventured back on to the stage to play a financial administrator in Freddie’s delegation, and seemingly a CIA agent. I wonder where the inspiration for Jon’s characterization of Walter comes from? What I'd also forgotten was what a good voice Jon has, but reminding us of that talent that stays hidden from time to time.
Darryl Clarke (Anatoly) brings out the steely Russian brilliantly. Anatoly is at the top of his game on the world’s game stage. Driven by his ambition to be the best but unwilling to show the man behind that hardened exterior. That though starts to change when he meets and falls in love with Florence, and what happens out of Russia, stays out of Russia, until his wife and family are used in the political game of Chess. Darryl shows the push and pull of Anatoly’s personalities with great intelligence. His version of "Anthem" was spine tinglingly good.
Playing Fredereick “Freddie” Trumper, the American Chess champion, was Jonny Painting. I don't think that I've heard Jonny sing as good as he did last night. He was on top form. His voice really suits this type of rock opera.
Morven Harrison (Florence) returns to the stage for the first time in a few years. Like Jon, she has been involved in many of the lush scores that you may have heard in various Loughborough Town Hall musicals. Again, a belter of a voice that just gives you tingles when she lets fly with some of her notes. Florence isn’t your usual musical female parts. An intelligent, strong female character who is at the centre of this love triangle. Definitely a role that you can tell Morven is loving.
Laura Brookes plays Svetlana Sergievskaya, Anatoly’s estranged wife.You don't get to see that much of this character but as part of the duet, "I Know Him So Well" with Morven, they set the hairs on the back of your neck rising, their voices blend so well
The Arbiter, the man in charge of the Chess matches is played with authority from ESNA newcomer, Meng Khaw. Knowing of Meng’s back theatrical catalogue of roles, I had an inkling that this role would be just right for Meng. I was not wrong and I was not disappointed. Vocally this cast is one of the best I've witnessed and Meng is a welcome addition.
Gareth Musson (Molotov) plays Anatoly's conniving second who is apparently also a manipulative KGB agent! This musical has a special place in the heart of Gareth, and his love for the music is apparent in his rich, deep vocals.
An excellent ensemble of twenty one other cast members really flesh out the vocals and dance numbers.
The set for “Chess” is very technical because it consists of sixteen flexible LED screens, usually seen in London’s West End productions, giving this production that extra sheen of quality, professionalism and WOW factor. This amazing design is thanks to Jez Malpas of Easyflex LED Screens.
Making this an exciting visual piece of art is the lighting by Judith Moulton.
The sound was of the highest quality from Rob Temperton and the rest of the set design was by Ash Moulton.
Directing this rapid moving show was Emma Healey, making sure there was no rime for you to look at watches, not that you'd want to in this musical.
Loved the choreography as well, thanks to Carl Edwards.Ranging from, what looked to be quite simple steps, to intricate moves. If something looks simple though, you can guarantee that it's not that way and that the talented cast and choreographer has worked hard to give that impression.
Giving that extra touch of class were the costumes, most in stark black and white. A great job done by Victoria Clarke.
“Chess”, although political in its plot, at its’ heart is a love story with some well-known songs, “I Know Him So Well”, “One Night In Bangkok”, "Nobody's Side", "Heaven Help My Heart" and the gorgeous “Anthem”.
At these prices you won’t need to pawn a thing to be able to afford the ticket price, You’ll feel like a King with your Queen, you’ll have a great (K)night out, but the way tickets are going you may need to check, mate, that there are some available.
“Chess” is at Loughborough Town Hall until Saturday 8 April 2017 and one musical you don't want to miss for its' pure professionalism..

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