by Samm J.
Things aren’t always black and white – especially in this year’s musical production of Chess.
The show music was written by Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus formally of ABBA, with lyrics by Tim Rice. Simply put, it revolves around two international chess games that create a love triangle between the two world-champion chess players and their love interest, Florence Vassey. However, according to the director, Dwight Dunfield, the story and ideologies are much more complex than just that.
“While it is centred around the matches, the theme of chess is played out through cold war political relations between the USSR and the West,” said Dunfiled via email.
It is 1979. The long-standing champion, Frederick Trumper, played by Robbie Lynn, is an American who despises Russians. His current lover, Florence, portrayed by Samm Phillips, was born Hungarian but was chased out of Budapest at a young age by invading Soviets. She thus has conflicted feelings when she beings to fall for Anatoly Sergievsky, Freddy’s Russian challenger, portrayed by Alex Landine.
All the while the politicians from both parties, Walter DeCourcy and Alexander Molokov (Ryan Tapley and Matthew LeBlanc), use their players as pawns and plot out their war-related schemes. This includes bringing Anatoly’s wife, Svetlana (played by Ashley Goodine) into the picture, as well as tracking down Florence’s thought-to-be-dead father.
“This is a more serious show,” said Dunfield. “We have added another layer with our narrator [played by Amy Foster], who we portray as a queen controlling the whole situation. Notable themes include politics and espionage, freedom, love and integrity.”
This show is not only more challenging for the cast acting-wise, but also musically. Chess is an almost entirely sung rock-based musical. “It is always much more demanding to bring this type of show together,” said Dunfield. “There’s so much music to learn. But it keeps the show moving.”
Despite the daunting prospects, Dunfield has confidence in his team. “I always pick the show to suit the talent that I have available.”
He isn’t only talking about the cast members. More than twenty-five willing volunteers make up the production team. Whether a helpful teacher or a contributing parent, they take charge of everything from costumes to vocal lessons to ticket sales.
“Chess is a deeper show with more layers built into it,” said Dunfield. “The players are being controlled for the purpose of winning “the game,” which is political in nature.”
The show runs from the 21st to the 24th of November with school matinees on the 20th and 22nd. Evening shows begin at 7:30pm, and the run-time is two and a half hours, plus intermission. Tickets are between $15 and $17 and are on sale now at the Fredericton box office or online at theplayhouse.ca.