It was Melissa Martin's dream to direct Chess in Dannevirke and while there have been some nightmares and sleepless nights, her dream was fulfilled last Friday night.

A cast and crew of more than 100 brought Chess the Musical alive on the Town Hall stage, with polished performances you'd expect from a professional theatre company. But it's highly talented amateurs who are delighting with a very challenging production which is a dream come true, not only for Miss Martin, but musical director Gary Mitchelmore and choral director Shasta Pene.

With music by Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus of ABBA fame and lyrics by Sir Tim Rice, Chess takes the game beyond the playing board, as it becomes a metaphor for romantic rivalries and the politics of East and West.

While some of the music may not be well-known, One Night in Bangkok and I Know Him so Well are international hits, with the leads and cast managing the often complicated musical story with star-like aplomb.


No one will leave the Town Hall in any doubt about the outstanding ability of Dannevirke's Nathan Davis as Freddie Trumper, his voice is simply stunning. But the other leads aren't outdone and on opening night it was the duo between Val Andrews as Florence Vassey and Destine Greatbatch as Svetlana Sergievskaya which captured the hearts of the audience, while the athletic dancing cossacks received rapturous applause. And a closer look at the orchestra showed just how much effort the 18-piece group, pulled together at the last minute, had put in. As one audience member said, "the cellist and violinist were going for it, playing their hearts out".

The Russian delegation worse for wear after a night enjoying their vodka.
The Russian delegation worse for wear after a night enjoying their vodka.

Feedback has been "brilliant", Miss Martin said, and newcomers to the theatre on opening night told the Dannevirke News they "were absolutely blown away" by the production.

But with just 500 seats sold so far, half of what the Dannevirke Theatre Company needs, it's now time for bums on seats to ensure we continue to have top class local productions.

- Chess the Musical continues tomorrow night, Friday and Saturday, with bookings available at the Information Centre, TicketDirect, along with door sales at the Town Hall.