Chess claims a number of firsts
When the Dannevirke Theatre Company’s production of Chess takes to the stage it will be memorable for a number of firsts. Most notably it is the first time Chess has been performed in Dannevirke.
While director Melissa Martin and musical director Gary Mitchelmore have both been involved in the theatre for many years, this is the first time they have taken on their respective roles in a production of this scale.
It will also be the first time in almost a decade Dannevirke Theatre Company will be using a full orchestra in a major production. Not since Annie has an orchestra added to the drama of a production with live music.
As a production, Chess has special meaning to Melissa, who is choreographer, so it was logical this was the show she would choose for her directing debut.
‘‘It’s my favourite show. I was one of the lead dancers when it was performed in the old Palmerston North Opera House 22 years ago. I had the opportunity to tread the boards then so it’s an amazing opportunity to be able bring the show to the stage in Dannevirke now.’’
Gary, who plays the cornet and has played in brass bands for 20 years, is excited to have a talented line-up of musicians perform in the show.
‘‘In past shows we have used backing tapes but these can be too stilted, too restrictive and Chess is a show that is quite symphonic.’’
Retired priest Father Peter Fahy, from Levin, has returned to his old parish to play second violin in the show.
‘‘We are thrilled to have Father Peter as part of the ensemble. He is joined by Ashhurst’s Nathan Pinkney, also on violin, and Paul Simpson of Feilding on guitar. Other than that the orchestra of 18 is made up of home boys.’’
Gary says they are fortunate to have such talented musicians as the music is challenging.
The music of Chess was written by Bjo¨rn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson, formerly of ABBA, with lyrics by Tim Rice. The story involves a romantic triangle between two players in a world chess championship, and a woman who manages one and falls in love with the other.
Taking the lead role of Freddie Trumper is Nathan Davis, while Palmerston North’s Paul Lyons plays Ivan Molokov, a role he had in the Palmerston North production 22 years ago. Other Palmerston North performers are Val Andrew, who takes the role of Florence, and Ben Jones who plays Anatoly Sergievsky.
Rounding out the seven lead roles are Davina Graham in the role of the Arbiter, Jonny Max who plays the American Walter and Destine Greatbatch who plays Svetlana, Anatoly’s wife.
With opening night just a fortnight away rehearsals are in full swing. There will be six performances at the Dannevirke Town Hall, on April 15, 16, 21, 22 and two peformances on April 23.
Melissa is determined to make each performance an experience not to be forgotten. ‘‘Downstairs we’re selling tables and when you purchase a table ticket you receive a complimentary drink, it all adds to the atmosphere. This production isn’t just about coming to see a show, it’s the whole theatrical experience,’’ she said.
Tickets for Chess are on sale at the Dannevirke Information Centre and through TicketDirect.
Musical director Gary Mitchelmore and director Melissa Martin take time out from a rehearsal of Dannevirke Theatre Company’s production of
Chess which opens its season in Dannevirke Town Hall on April 15.