REVIEWSTheatre ReviewsTom Williams

Chess The Musical Porchlight Revisits

(London production)

Book & Lyrics by Tim RiceChess Banner

Music by Bjorn Ulvaeus & Benny Andersson

Directed by Michael Weber

Music direction by Jimmy Morehead

Choreographed by Brenda Didier

Produced by Porchlught Revists

At Stage 773, Chicago

Poor sound mix hurt otherwise worthy production

 After director Michael Weber narrated the history of Chess The Musical, I realized that this production was special: it was the first London rendition to grace an American stage.  This 2 hour, 45 minute production is a mixture of modern operatic motifs with classic pop/rock music and rock-sung recitative. Much of the sung dialogue had to be screened to be heard. To add to my irritation was the orchestra, especially the percussion (and at times the piano) was simply too loud. That made the soloists and,  even the chorus, to sing quite loud. Many of the lyrics were lost due to the poor sound mix.


But this concert series featured a terrific cast of top local singers led by Justin Adair (Anatoly), John B. lean (Molokov) and the fabulous Danni Smith as Florence with nice work from Britt-Marie Sivertsen as Swetlana. The ladies nailed gracefully the show’s anthem “I know Him So Well.”


Once we learn that Chess was a British hit but was re imaged for Broadway, we realize that this London production was too much a pop/rock opera for American tastes. It just has too much rock-sung dialogue and too many competing musical styles. But Smith, Adair and Adrain Agular each worked hard to make the dated material and questionable style work. The opera has it moments and it works as a history lesson for British musical of the 1980’s. Serious musical patrons will want to see this curiosity. Hurry, there are only two more performances.


Tom Williams

At Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont, Chicago, IL, call 773-327-5252,, tickets $35, Wednesday may 4 and Thursday, May 5 at 7:15, running time is 2 hours, 45 minutes with 2 intermission, through May, 2016