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Thursday, 27 November 2014

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On top of their game

TAKE a huge chunk of Abba-influenced music. Mix it with a set of lyrics from Sir Tim Rice and wrap it all up in a story of political intrigue, international sport and romance.

The result at The Forum on Tuesday was the opening night performance of Barrow Operatic and Dramatic Society’s 2012 production of Chess.

The local society previously performed this show in 1994 and the 18 years that have elapsed has given Steve Carrick the opportunity to move from lead role to director. The technology introduced by Carrick has clearly moved local production of musical theatre to a higher level than ever before.

This version featured a stage consisting of a huge chess board, comprising multi-colour and multi-function lighting that provided the centrepiece for the show. The addition of simulated live TV feeds and three giant screens were an excellent complement to the dedicated orchestra, superbly led by musical director Paul Blake.

Chess is the story of a Russian, Anatoly Sergievsky, a Yank, Frederick Trumper, their struggle for supremacy at the game, and their love for Florence Vassey.

Sarah Carrick played Vassey, reprising her role from years ago. Chris Warby donned the Soviet mantle to play Sergievsky and Joe Kaye played Trumper, the bullish Americano. Undoubtedly these three were the stars of the show but they were ably supported by Louise Marshall as Sergievsky’s wife.

Chess, the game, is not easy to understand. Yet even though there were no checkmates, no Sicilian defences and no Latvian gambits, Chess the musical is similarly difficult to grasp.

It’s a story of arguments: east versus west, knight versus queen, man versus woman, betrayal versus loyalty. Like most arguments there is inevitable shouting and at times some of the songs were incomprehensible because of the rapid, quick-fire delivery.

When the stars sang their individual songs they came into their own.

Louise Marshall’s rendition of Someone Else’s Story and Sarah Carrick’s Heaven Help My Heart were terrific and the whole cast version of One Night in Bangkok was a real highlight.

Chess is a heavy story, it’s far from “black and white” but the 40-strong company delivered a high-quality performance. Yet again, it is with great admiration that I commend them for their energy, enthusiasm and professionalism.

TREVOR JONES

 

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