Chess has been brought back to life with a bang, in what will probably become known the definitive production of the show. Craig Revel Horwood (Strictly Come Dancing and director of the recent hit version of Sunset Boulevard) is both Director and Choreographer in this new production. He has given the show a new lease of life, which is both high tech and raunchy. This fresh approach must mean this production will be West End bound following its extensive tour.
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 in to the mix we have international conspiracies and the arrival of Sergievskys’ wife, Svetlana (Poppy Tierney) as well as a brilliant score to keep our attention.
The story moves at a swift pace from scenes in Merano to Bangkok with the action taking place on a high tech set designed by Christopher Woods ( who also designed the costumes)the centre piece of which is a raised floor that transforms in to chessboard. While the high tech video design, by Jack James, gives 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 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 Co and is Managing Director of Qdos Pantomimes.
Every piece of this production comes together perfectly, with each and every one of the cast delivering show stopping performances. There is 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.