Chess at Signature Theatre

If any theatre in the DC area was going to take on the first professional production of this 80s-rock musical in nearly 20 years, Signature would be the one you'd want. With first-rate cast made up of both Broadway and Signature veterans, plus a design team that went with their concept completely, you've got one hell of a show on your hands. The orchestral arrangement does not shy away from the stereotypical music of that decade, but it also doesn't go over the top, even with the radio hit "One Night in Bangkok." It's a joy to watch.

Jill Paice leads the show as Florence Vassey, a refugee who had to flee Hungary in 1956 when she was only a child and was then brought up in the US. She's the 2nd to Freddie Trumper (beautifully portrayed by Jeremy Kushnier), who is going up against Anatoly Sergievsky (Euan Morton) for the world chess title. I don't want to go into too much detail about the story, because this is a slightly tweaked version of the script that was on Broadway several years ago. These three main characters, however, will rip your heart out at the drop of a hat. From Paice's incredible "Nobody's Side" near the beginning to Morton's soaring "Anthem" at the conclusion of the first act to Kusnier's "Pity the Child" in the second act, they are full of the fire and passion that makes up each of their characters. I'm getting goosebumps THINKING about these songs. The ensemble is equally as powerful, getting involved with songs like "One Night in Bangkok" and "What a Scene." Russell Sunday puts in a stellar performance as the smarmy Walter and Chris Bloch is the man the audience loves to hate as Molokov.

Director Eric Schaeffer brings in a familiar vision - most of the set and costumes are in the black/gray/white family, which is reminiscent of both Les Miserables and Sweeney Todd. Karma Camp choreographs with a fair amount of success. Overall, this is an incredible piece of theatre that makes for an extremely lovely evening. 4 stars.

Book by Richard Nelson
Music by Bjorn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson
Lyrics by Tim Rice
Based on an idea by Tim Rice
Directed by Eric Schaeffer
August 10 - September 26
4 stars


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