After the success of musicals Blood Brothers and Shrek, Tauranga theatre company Stage Right is about to bring another epic production to Baycourt.
Chess, a musical written by ABBA's Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus with lyrics from Tim Rice, tells the story of a love triangle between two grandmasters, one American and the other Russian, and a woman who manages one but falls in love with the other.
Stage Right trustee and show director Toni Henderson says that Chess borders on being a rock opera with some spectacular choral pieces throughout. The story takes the audience from Tyrol to Thailand and involves a politically driven Cold War–era chess tournament, which is a theme she says is still relevant today.
"Just look at Brexit. That could be seen as an economic cold war. But the show really is about relationships, with an undercurrent of who is controlling who. Just like the game of chess, it is about strategic thinking.
"For every move you make, you must have already thought through the next four moves ahead. This musical takes that rule and applies to people's lives," she explains.
Stage Right was established late 2017 and is managed by Henderson and two other trustees, Laura Mansell and Alec Were. They felt that Tauranga had grown to the stage where there was room for another theatre group, and they aim to provide shows that compliment what other local groups are doing.
"Although to date we have staged musicals only, we will be bringing the much well-loved New Zealand play Ladies Night to the XSpace at Baycourt at the end of the year. Those keen to hear what we are up to can follow our Facebook page," Henderson says.
Like many other theatre groups, Stage Right holds open auditions. Henderson says that Chess is one of those shows that appeals to performers as it has amazing music and some incredibly strong characters to play.
The female lead character Florence is played by Anna Hawkins, an internationally acclaimed singer and performer who is from the Bay. Tauranga audiences would have last seen her at Baycourt as Kim in Miss Saigon a few years ago or at one of her popular solo concerts.
Anna has also performed leading roles in musicals Les Miserables, Jekyll & Hyde, and most recently as Christine in Ken Hill's Phantom of the Opera in Tokyo.
"Stage Right is really lucky to have had an awesome array of people audition for us. We have an amazingly talented cast for this production. Anna is joined by Sam Howe, who plays American player Freddie, and Tim Chiari in the role of Russian Anatoly. Tim is a relative newcomer to musical theatre in Tauranga, although he has been singing for years," Henderson says.
The three leads are joined on stage by familiar local theatre performers Liam Hagan as Molokov, Matt Henderson as the Arbiter, Carlie Howe as Svetlana and Matt Glover as Walter Decourcey. They are also supported by an experienced chorus, dancers, an onstage choir and an amazing 24-piece orchestra.
Musical Director Mal Brady is a well-respected teacher and musical practitioner who has many years of experience working with vocalists and instrumentalists. Choreographer Kelsey Andrew has danced internationally and runs one of the largest dance studios in Tauranga.
"We are on track for opening on the 26th of July, and we're really looking forward to getting on the set in Baycourt. Chess has an amazing score and, combined with our cast and orchestra and the stunning set that has been designed and built specifically for us, it will be a great night out for all."
NEED TO KNOW
WHAT: CHESS The Musical
WHERE: Baycourt Addison Theatre
WHEN: 26 July – 2 August 2019