Chess – the Musical

2 August 2018, Tabard Theatre, Napier
By Teresa Murray

As a teenager I fell in love with a cassette tape, the soundtrack of the musical Chess, so when I heard it was going to be performed in Napier I knew I had to go. Tonight I fell in love with the stage show.

Napier Operatic Society have put together an outstanding cast of talent, directed by Sarah Rogers, James McCaffrey, Brent Smith and choreographed by Nathan Wright. The stage was alive with song and dance, the sound reflected from all sides. I was in awe as the actors came down the aisles in the Tabard Theatre, surrounding the audience with a choir chorus as the Arbiter arose through the floorboards in the misty cloud like a magician.

The Arbiter was my favourite character with his crimson coat and sharp makeup. He led the way with a strong voice and the whole show lived up to the standard he first set. The main characters were all mature, professional performers and held the audience until the end, even though the story was long and the seats not so comfortable.

The stage was packed with action, though in some scenes I thought there wasn’t enough room for everyone singing and dancing together.

With the orchestra positioned under the staircase set towards the back of the stage, everyone could enjoy watching the conductor dance to his own magic. I also very much enjoyed the chess game, where up on the stairs the champions were in battle with their board, and down on the main stage the chess pieces came to life and took each other out, one at a time, in dramatic killing moves. Black vs white, American vs Russian. They played for money, their countries, love and fame. They won; they lost.

The show for me brought back memories of my youth with the music I loved then and the story brought a new understanding of my own personal struggles in life. It was a good reflection for me.

I enjoyed this show so much and am glad it lived up to my expectations. The singing was exactly spot on to my old cassette tape but so much more real with faces to put it to and costumes and dancing and men in sparkly high heels, smoke and mystery, fabulous expressions. The endless applause was well deserved.

Chess is on at the Tabard Theatre until 11 August

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