Words by Tim Rice and Music by Benny Andersson & Björn Ulvaeus
The Nuffield Theatre,
February 2015
Director: Roger Lamb
Cast List
The Arbiter
Frederick Trumper
Florence Vassy
Walter De Courcey
Alexander Molokov
Anatoly Sergievsky
Svetlana Sergievsky
Comrade Viigand

Notes on this performance

124. Chess

Showstoppers do just that...

The recent practice of putting on large-scale modern musicals had certainly been popular with the audiences - Beauty and the Beast had attracted over 2000 for its week whilst Jesus Christ Superstar was not far behind. So, when the performing licence for Chess became available, the Committee jumped at the chance of enjoying another busy winter show. Roger Lamb was keen to direct again and Nigel Finch readily agreed to act as MD even though he had plans to get married and go away on honeymoon during the rehearsal period. Fortunately he found an assistant in Rachael Thorpe who was willing to share her time between DYT and SOS.

The production attracted a lot of new members, many of whom had connections with SUSU Showstoppers, the University's Musical Theatre Society and they were very successful at the principal auditions taking most of the lead roles. Initially this caused some consternation among the 'regular' members but when they saw the newcomers in action at rehearsals, it was clear that the Society was fortunate to have their services - especially as Chess proved to be a difficult show with complex music and a libretto bordering on the impossible to learn.

Wisely, Roger selected a group of 'good movers' from within the company to learn most of the dance sequences under the guidance of Sarah Hogger who was making her debut as the Society's Choreographer. Ann-Marie Sait also assisted him and she warmed up the company at every rehearsal with a vigorous, high-tempo work out - however, as the chorus was then static for most of its numbers, the newly found flexibility was perhaps not put to its best use.

The production was well received by the Echo reviewer who declared that 'the company played an excellent game' before expanding with; 'The competing chess masters, 'Peewee' Ward (Frederick Trumper) and 'Teddy' Clements (Anotoly Sergievsky) gave very mature performances for ones so youthful, the latter being a pleasant surprise as his usual contribution is more often as musical director. Mark Hill was a polished Molotov but not as much as Natalie Baker, as Florence, Trumper's assistant and lover, who fully deserved the final bow after her exceptional contribution, including the much-anticipated duet I Know Him So Well with Daniella Gambier, also in fine voice as Svetlana, Sergievsky's wife.

The minimalist set worked very well and Nigel Finch's 26-piece orchestra matched the quality onstage. Director Roger Lamb felt this was an ambitious project but his talented company delivered with aplomb'.

The 26 piece orchestra was indeed highly impressive but they did strain the budget somewhat and when it was suddenly necessary to hire three Pro MacBooks to assist them, it was taken to breaking point. All would still have been fine financially if the matinee had sold as well as the evening performances but, sadly, it didn't and Chess made a loss of £1411.

Terry O'Farrell

  Photo of Arbiter

                                      Rob McGough (The Arbiter) tells the story of chess

Photo of Cheerleaders

                                   Abi Jeffrey lifted aloft by the other cheerleaders

Photo of Embassy

                  Pete Reynolds, David Grist, Tony Jardine, Ellie Robinson and Paul Dawson-Plincke in the Embassy

Photo of Dancers

                                                          The Dancers in One Night in Bangkok 

Photo of Principals

Liam Baker (Walter de Courcey), Alex Clements (Anatoly Sergievsky), Peter Ward (Frederick Trumper), Natalie Baker (Florence Vassy), Mark Hill (Alexander Molokov), Daniella Gambier (Svetlana Sergievsky)

Photo of Chess Match

                                                  The final chess match in the World Championship