Chess the musical a Mirvish Production, features lyrics by Sir Tim Rice and the score by Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus of Abba fame. Directed by Craig Revel Horwood and runs Until Oct. 30 at the Princess of Wales Theatre.
Sir Tim Rice suggested in his twitter session with Mirvish on Wednesday September 28th that he much preferred the Toronto production of Chess to the Broadway production as it closer to the original concept. If you have ever played the game of Chess you will know it is a complicated strategic game. The musical is just as complicated and demands the full attention of the audience. Do not delude yourself this is not an easy musical to sit through. At the intermission I observed many people leaving the theatre and not returning. When I spoke to one of the stewards he indicated that “this was the norm every show.”
Two of the world’s greatest chess masters battle it out at the world chess championships but their greatest contest is for the love of one woman. Amidst political intrigue and international conspiracies, the American and the Russian fight to win the heart of Florence Vassy in a romantic triangle that mirrors the heightened passions of the Cold War.
The show has gathered together a superb cast of West End stars including James Fox (Fame Academy, Jesus Christ Superstar), Shona White (Wicked), Tam Mutu (Love Never Dies), Rebecca Lock (The Phantom of the Opera, Avenue Q), James Graeme (The Phantom of the Opera), David Erik (Dirty Dancing, The Phantom of the Opera) and Steve Varnom (The Woman in White) lead a cast of 30 actors and musicians.
The costumes and staging by Craig Revel Horwood are excellent but at times I felt I was having flash backs to the Eurovision song contest, Top of the Pops on British TV or some surreal Tim Burton movie set.
Tam Muttu (the Russian) and Shona White (as Florence) are excellent, the singing in general is very good, and there are some fine moments by the chorus of actor-musicians.
Shona White gives her all as Florence, the woman who betrays one love for another and spends the rest of her time wondering why. By the final curtain, the strength of her approach will captivate you.
Rebecca Lock is Svetlana, the wronged wife, who appears in a smaller role in act 2, but her rendition of “Someone Else’s Story” is beautiful.
James Fox as the arrogant American champ gets to deliver the soulful “Pity the Child,” which he does wonderfully.
Tam Mutu the Russian defectors voice filled the theatre especially in the power ballad, “Anthem.” the Act I closer.
Much is of this musical is forgettable. But when Shona White and Poppy Tierney come downstage to sing ‘I Know Him So Well’, it is a moment that all musical lovers crave. But unfortunately sometimes that is not sufficient. There are too many moments of chaos on the stage and is at times dull.
What I promise you’ll take away is the memory of the cast’s honest performances.
Checkmate! Chess the musical is not for beginners.