Tuesday 14 March 2017
Chess 2017 NODA Report
This vibrant Rock Opera was performed by a talented cast and ensemble that had many highlights and was an accomplished production.
The mood was established right from the start by the simple, but clever set design, including side screen projections and height variations in the staging, which added a new dimension along with positional lighting on a stage wide cyclorama.
The task of handling the intricate music to ensure tempos and continuity were kept was in the very capable hands of Musical Director John Tripp and his excellent Orchestra. There were on occasion, however, moments when I perceived the inclusion of additional musical harmonies that I was unfamiliar with and this made me question if an updated version had been developed of which I was unaware.
The story line itself was a little thin, covering the political aspect between USA and Russia and the love life of the protagonists both in love with the same lady. The passion and emotion of the music and the tension of the International World Chess Final presented a very sophisticated show and for this the strength of the show relied upon the quality and talents of the seven Principals, and, because of the complexities of the musical numbers, there could be no weaknesses.
The first act slowly engages the audience and closes with the well-known evocative ‘Anthem’, superbly sung by Mick Wilson (Anatoly) and ensemble. The second act is much stronger and the principals reveled in the opportunity to sing such superb songs. Tracy Gwynne (Florence) was simply wonderful having a very strong stage presence and powerful soprano voice. Chris Lucas (Freddie) the American chess master was well cast and showed great acting potential however, top notes, at times, were rather strained and he needs to develop the art of restraint remembering that on stage, less power often gives the audience more.
His Russian opponent Mick Wilson (Anatoly) was superb in the role and presented us with a master class in musical theatre.
Sarah Lodge (Svetlana) gave a very controlled performance on stage and her solo ‘Someone Else’s Story’ and duet with Florence ‘I Know Him So Well’ was beautifully sung and performed.
Phillip Cable (Walter) gave us a scheming and at times somewhat humorous performance, which was slowly picked up by the audience.
Molokov (Stephen Cooper) gave a fine, mature, understated portrayal, sang well and maintained his Russian accent throughout.
Joanna Tripp( Arbiter) hit the high notes with ease and power and it was interesting to see a woman in this role. Well done.
Ensemble singing was excellent and the orchestral sound was perfect. However the one weak spot was the choreography. Dance combinations often seemed muddled and a number of the ensemble were out of time in the faster paced sections. The use of pom-poms did not work at all.
The quality of the sound was good and I loved the overhead camera, perfectly positioned every time.
Costumes and hair for the principals were in keeping with the time period but the ensemble were a mismatch of styles and designs and the general appearance of some of the younger members of the chorus was rather untidy. In particular, hair- styles needed more attention.
The finale ‘Anthem’ by the whole Company was totally thrilling. The audience loved it and so did I.
This was a memorable production for Ware Operatic and well suited to their strengths as accomplished singers. Congratulations.
Thank you for your hospitality and I hope to see you again soon.
Report by Vicki Avery, NODA District 9