Community,Productions,Spotlight

From The Director’s Desk: The Joys of a High-Stakes Match Well Played

5 Sep , 2018  

Championship chess is a thrilling world, filled with larger than life personalities, intrigues, and fast paced action. Who knew that watching hyper-intelligent people think could be so interesting? Mix chess with the dynamics of take-no-prisoners international diplomacy, crossed with complicated interpersonal entanglements, and you have the basis of a compelling story. The story of these various attempts at manipulation come together compellingly in Tim Rice, Benny Anderson, and Bjorn Ulvaeus’s musical Chess.

Why this play? This play has been tried in different forms between the West End and Broadway. It has been pretty commonly understood in the industry that neither form worked perfectly. Tim Rice, whose idea this play was, invites a director to continue the work of shaping the telling of this story, its character development, and the interplay of those different worlds. That alone was a compelling reason to work on this material.  ABBA’s score is well known and well loved, and Tim Rice’s lyrics give fuel to the world. It was an exciting prospect for me to dissect this wonderful story, script, and score, and to reimagine the intersections of the characters in order to make their journey touch us across the footlights.

Why now? Current Russian–American sparring cannot help but remind us of the deadly diplomatic tensions of the Cold War. How do we relate to each other as nations and as individuals? How do we know what the other side really wants, really means? How we really function productively?

We in the Chess company have a tremendous respect and admiration for the amazing minds that compete in chess at the championship level. We’ve come to understand the dominance of Russia in the game and the support they have given their most skilled players. The obsession and focus required to participate at this level attracts minds that just don’t turn off. Unfortunately, minds that ignore other aspects of life are easily mis-used. We hope that you will love these characters and their story in this rarified world as much as we have loved creating it all for you.

The collaborative nature of theatre requires that artistry and co-operation from many specialists come together. Our team has been especially brilliant. We have an amazingly talented cast. Musical Director Alex Marshall’s orchestration underscores the drama with passion. Halee Rasmussen’s tilted, raked chess board is a constant tweak to the predicatable. Cole Adams’s inspired lighting keeps us on edge and guessing at what will happen next. Adam Day masterfully brings the voices front while still letting us feel the band in the room. Brenda Van der Wiel created our edgy, surprising costumes. Amanda French wig’s and make-up have added to the off kilter nature of the characters. Amber Lewandowski and her skilled stage management team have kept us focused and on schedule. The Musical Theatre Ensemble supports and broadens the score allowing us to expand the sound.

We have been so blessed with a team that has bonded, and who serve the show with definitive focus and unique sensitivity and talent.

We hope you enjoy the show!

–Denny Berry
Director and Choreographer of Chess The Musical

Musical Theatre Program Head


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