Judy, Greg, Cotton and I went to see an amateur production of the musical “Chess”, performed by the Eastwood Uniting Church Musical Society at West Ryde this afternoon.
As far as amateur productions go, it was pretty good, with the musical direction being absolutely terrific. Greg said the guitar solo at the end of “Pity The Child” was the best he’s ever heard… and apparently, he knows about these things.
The singing and acting were both a little patchy, although there were some very good performances in the midst of it all. The guy playing Anatoly had a sensational voice – lots of comparisons with Tommy Korberg – although his acting was sometimes a little overdramatic.
The chorus was excellent, especially in those moments without musical backing. They harmonised very well.
The one disappointment was “One Night In Bangkok” which, unfortunately, they failed to cut the mustard on, perhaps due to technical issues… or maybe because it was just too complex for an amateur production to stage.
It occurred to me the reason why “Chess” has had only limited success is that it spends too much time early in the piece talking about the game, the history, the politics when actually it’s the love story and the personal motivations that are the most interesting. If I was doing a production I’d chop out most of the first half and begin with “1956 Budapest Is Rising” as it’s from then onwards that you understand so many of the motivations – both personal and political – that govern the action of the characters.
Curiously enough, the director, Penny Wilson wrote in her notes, “From the earliest days of conceptualising this production, it has clearly been a ‘problem play’. For me as a believer in Christ, and for EUCMS as a Church-based organisation, the problems it poses were the aspects we wanted to emphasise rather than avoid.” She was obviously talking about the selfishness of the characters and that there were no happy endings, leading her to conclude that it could be read “as a sort of anti-parable”. Who would have thought…
Overall a good production and well worth the trip to West Ryde.