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.

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