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Chess

Book by Richard Nelson. Music by Benny Andersson & Bjorn Ulvaeus. Lyrics by Tim Rice
28th Sept to 3rd October 1998
At Gordon Craig Theatre,
Lytton Road,
Stevenage
Production Director - Jim Snell, Musical Director - Justin Thomas.

Programme cover:

Chess is a story of Cold War politics, sport and passion, set to end-to-end music. The principal characters are the two contestants, an American and a Russian who are used as political pawns for the nations as propaganda and power tools. Caught in the middle is Florence Vassy, a Hungarian refugee who at the onset is lover and second to the American but who transfers her affections and allegiance to the Russian. The score had a profound effect on stage music of the time and lifted, once again, its profile as the famous female duet “I know him so well” reached the number one spot in the national charts. Chess played for three years in London and its songs went around the world

Synopsis

ACT 1 - The World Chess Championship is about to commence in Merano, Northern Italy. Defending his title is an American, the challenger a Russian. The colourful opening is a tribute to the expectation of the people of the small Tyrolean town. All is not set to continue smoothly; the American walks out leaving an insulted second, Florence Vassy to explain. Florence, a naturalised British citizen, was born in Hungary but has questions about her fathers disappearance when the Hungarian uprising was crushed. When the first game begins, tensions mount as the players resort to underhand tactics to make their gain: the subtle drama crescendos when the players fling the board into the air. Florence and Molokov, the Russians second, arrange for the four to meet. The Russian is late so the American leaves in disgust; when the Russian does arrive, he and Florence are attracted to one another, interrupted only by the American’s return. Despite a fiery union, both agree to a press conference sharing the blame and agreeing to resume the championship. Some days later, the American’s performance is lacking and he blames Florence for his loss of form. The ensuing argument leaves the American devastated as Florence tells him she will leave him. Shortly after winning the championship, the Russian presents himself at the Western Embassy seeking political asylum. This he is afford.

ACT 2 - A year later, the scene is Bangkok, Thailand where the Russian is preparing to defend his title. He and Florence have been lovers since his defection. Meanwhile, Molokov is considering his new player whom he hopes will both win and stay in Russia. To his surprise, the Russian is interviewed by the American, who proceeds to upset him by discussing his personal life and not chess. Prompted by this and the fact that the Russian authorities have now decided to let his wife out of the USSR; the Russian tells Florence he must leave her for the duration of the championship. To add to his angst, the American tells the Russian that if he should let his initial winning streak come to an end, he will ensure that Florence does not get to know the unpleasant information he has concerning her father. The American approaches Florence telling her that she should return to him - he could provide her with news of her father - but she refuses. Molkov and the Russian have indeed been in league against the Russian, however, with even with the added personal pressures, the Russian still wins the competition. His excitement at winning against his various opponents gives way to a recognition of the selfishness which has driven him; reconciliation with his wife, Svetlana is impossible. The final scene leaves a profound statement: like the game of chess, that of love can be played in many ways - perhaps the one between the Russian and Florence was just one of many that end in stalemate!. Finally, the American is seen approaching Florence to tell her some news ....

Cast
(In order of appearance)

The Arbiter - Ian Hamilton
Frederick Trumper - Guy Robinson
Florence Vassey - Lesley Houldcroft
Walter de Courcey - David Springate
Alexander Molokov - Michael Niles
Anatoly Sergievsky - Stephen Chalkley
Svetlana Sergievskaya - Veronica Crowley

Ensemble
Philip Arend, Michael Barker, Alison Bass, Roy Benney, Eileen Bone, Katy Bonja, Nicola Bonja, Maureen Briddon, Christine Brown, Slava Budin-Jones, Mick Bullen, Elaine Cousins, Alex Evans, Tom Evans, Paul Harris, Louise Hollingsworth, Adrian Johnson, Jack Lardent, Nick Morgan, Martin Murphy, Sandra Page, Ann Peacock, Carolyn Roberts, Michael Roberts, Alexandra Robinson, David Ross, Mark Savage, Michael Steele, Vivienne Tadman, Peter Wall, Arthur Warne, Elizabeth Warne, Jan Williams, Annette Wilson, David Young, Mary Young

Dancers
Samantha Balch, Lucy Day, Ranae Gray, Michelle Johnstone, Marie Knight, Donna Potter

PICTURES OF THE DRESS REHEARSAL, 29th September (Taken with a digital camera)

Opening scene The show opens with the story of Chess, and how it was invented. Dancing in the town of Merano The Chess tournament opens in Merano, Italy. The Arbiter struts his stuff. The Arbiter states his intention to see fair play. The Merchandisers. The Merchandisers seize the moment to advertise their wares. The End Game. The show moves to the Finale where the Chess is played both on and off the board.

A fuller selection of pictures from the show. Click on images to see larger version.

The Prologue, where the origins of Chess are revealed and demonstrated. The Arbiter ensures we all know he is here to see fair play. The dancers join in to make sure you are paying attention to the Arbiter! The American Champion arrives at Merano, Italy, for the first game of the tournament. Molokov preaches the Party line to the Russian player, Anatoly. Frederick Trumper, the American player, studies his moves.
           
 
The American envoy suggests Florence persuades Anatoly to lose the game. Finale Act 1, where Anatoly proclaims that he will not leave his native Russia. The tournament moves to Bangkok, Oriental City... Anatoly and Florence embrace. Anatoly returns to his homeland, and Florence loses her man, and nothing in return... The Company pose onstage at the end of a wonderful show week.  
           
         
     
 
 

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