Chess - UK tour = Style over Substance

AngusN
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Chess - UK tour = Style over Substance#1
Posted: 9/1/10 at 12:17pm
Well, I went to see the much anticipated premiere of Craig Revel Horwood's production of Chess at Theatre Royal on Friday. I was really looking forward to the production; it is one of my favourite shows and I liked the design of Revel Horwood's Danish production.
However, the evening was huge disappointment. The costumes and use of LED was excellent. However, the visual appeal did not make up for the poor performances and lack of clarity. If you don't know then show, then you will really struggle to follow the narrative; severely limited by the minimalist setting.
I like the concept of the actors playing instruments and it works for some shows, however, in this show, they are very distracting.
Revel Horwood clearly states in the programme that he 'wants to focus on the central love triangle'. However, his lack of focus on developing these characters and their relationships is what let's this production down. It seems Revel Horwood was completely out of his depth; the direction was limited - actors simply swapped places and quickly changed emotion without explanation.
Shona White as Florence (the character at the centre of the love triangle) was dreadful. She lacked any chemistry with either of the men she was supposed to love. Nor did I care for her enough to make the ending moving. Her voice was not strong enough to susatin the difficult sing of Florence, and her limitations were exposed when she needed to belt.
James Fox as Freddie, again seemed lost. He didn't really understand the character, so we didn't understand Freddie's tortured past, or his confused feelings for Florence.
Daniel Koek as the Russian, didn't even attempt to act. He relied on a great singing voice to carry his performance. Anatoly's relationship will Florence happened far too quickly during Mountain Duet. I was really surprised to read that Daniel had any stage experience at all. He seemed like a recording artist who had been thrust on the stage - he appeared lost throughout.
Poppy Tierney gave the best performance, as Svetlana. She had warmth and pathos. However, due to poor direction her role in the narrative wasn't remotely clear.
Revel Harwood really should have focused more on developing and exploring the relationships between his principals and not making the show look impressive.
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Scripps2
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Chess - UK tour = Style over Substance#2
Posted: 9/1/10 at 12:58pm
Interesting.

I'm hoping to catch this later in its tour but my expectations weren't high, even before reading this.

Hopefully Spend, Spend, Spend will be better.

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MamasDoin'Fine
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Chess - UK tour = Style over Substance#2
Posted: 9/1/10 at 1:01pm
It has never worked on stage, not even in the spectacular original- thats all it was was spectacular.

'Spend Spend Spend' will work well as it is a small peice just asking for small treatment.
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mrkringas
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Chess - UK tour = Style over Substance#3
Posted: 9/1/10 at 1:08pm
Daniel Koek was dreadful in West Side Story. Nice singing but terrible acting and an unlikeable stage persona that seemed to exist above and around his character.

I am looking forward to seeing this though. I'm surprised about Shona. I've heard her sing up close before and from memory she had a very powerful belt!
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mallardo
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Chess - UK tour = Style over Substance#4
Posted: 9/1/10 at 2:17pm
The problems you have with this production are the problems of the show itself. The relationships make no sense, the characters are paper thin and in one case (Freddie) patently ridiculous, what story there is is badly told. One is ALWAYS disappointed in Chess. It's only the music that works.
Faced with these Loreleis, what man can moralize!
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songanddanceman2
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Chess - UK tour = Style over Substance#5
Posted: 9/1/10 at 3:15pm
Im so fed up with these actor/musician shows
Namo i love u but we get it already....you don't like Madonna
AngusN
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Chess - UK tour = Style over Substance#6
Posted: 9/1/10 at 4:30pm
Me too, Songanddanceman.

Mallardo - I disagree. Actors being musicians is not. Poor performances by the leads is not a fault with the script. Sure the script has many limitations and the characters can appear one dimensional. However, it is the role of the director to make the relationships more developed and complex.
Yes, the script is diffcult to follow, but using virtually no set and very little movement does not assist the readers' understanding.
Mr Revel Horwood seems to have neglected his role as director and relied on those around him to make it look good. It was his silly decisions that let this show down, not the show itself.
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MamasDoin'Fine
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Chess - UK tour = Style over Substance#7
Posted: 9/1/10 at 5:04pm
Its doing almost sell out business at all of its dates.
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MamasDoin'Fine
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Chess - UK tour = Style over Substance#8
Posted: 9/1/10 at 5:04pm
Its doing almost sell out business at all of its dates.
AngusN
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Chess - UK tour = Style over Substance#9
Posted: 9/1/10 at 5:10pm
It is. Good luck to them.
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bob8rich
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Chess - UK tour = Style over Substance#10
Posted: 9/1/10 at 5:58pm
I haven't seen the Chess tour yet - will be seeing it in Cardiff in November. But all the Craig Revel Horwood productions I've seen at the Watermill have been astonishing - so I'd be surprised
if he were "out of his depth" in any show. Also I've worked with Craig and, not only is he a master at choroegraphic storytelling but he is fantastic at directing actors and has a brilliant instinct for the smallest detail regarding the dramatic needs of a scene.

Maybe he's just let down by the principal performers here or maybe it's simply that the dramatic core of the show itself is not strong enough and the characters are too wooden (as often happens IMO with all through-sung shows that do not have the subtlety of dialogue to develop plot and character).

But I'm still really looking forward to seeing this. The score is pretty much to die for and, as I said before, Craig is a brilliant director.

BTW Scripps - Spend Spend Spend was stunning at the Watermill so I imagine the tour will be equally great.

Also, I have to admit I have LOVED every actor-muso show I've seen. In every instance they have enhanced the piece rather than distracted from them.
THEATRE 2019: ASPECTS OF LOVE**** FRANKENSTEIN (Paris)**** AN ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE**** COMPANY***** [title of show]**** CAN CAN*** THE CEREAL CAFE**** BAD GIRLS**** RAGS***** LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE***** FOLLIES***** ROMANCE ROMANCE**** THE MARVELOUS WONDERETTES*** LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE***** QUEEN OF THE MIST**** SIX** THE PRICE***** MAGGIE MAY **** CALENDAR GIRLS** MAN OF LA MANCHA**** WAITRESS***** FANNY AND STELLA***
RadioFan
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Chess - UK tour = Style over Substance#11
Posted: 9/2/10 at 6:23am
Going to see Chess on Monday and really looking forward to it after reading this review.

http://www.whatsonstage.com/reviews/theatre/northeast/E8831283413659/Chess+(Tour+-+Newcastle).html
chess2
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Chess - UK tour = Style over Substance#12
Posted: 9/2/10 at 8:29am
You are going to have the time of your life! If have seen lot's of productions of chess including the west-end and stockholm productions but this version is without any doubt the best version I have seen. I think it is simply brilliant. It's getting some great reviews already. I am so glad that I have made the trip to newcastle from holland!
Holbee
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Chess - UK tour = Style over Substance#13
Posted: 9/2/10 at 12:47pm
There are people who love and people who hate the American version of "Chess". The way Trevor edited the score, made Tim Rice write new lyrics to songs given to different characters from the concept LP and London original. But making the show more of a "book" show and making Freddy more tangential to the love triangle (he and Florence were "once" together, she was now his "second" and more of a "mother" figure to him--really giving "Pity the Child" extra relevance) made you care more about Florence and Anatoly's affair. Freddy is also made more of a dim American "jock" type, as opposed the aesthete he was on the West End. "You and I" (with David Carroll and Judy Kuhn) was devastating (if, as I said, you were in the "love" category). It may not have exactly solved the show's problems (the Broadway version was considered a flop) but I feel it was quite an improvement on Trevor's London original. I must say I was disappointed that this production doesn't use the Richard Nelson book. Apparently Signature Theatre in Washington DC is doing the American version to great acclaim.
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MamasDoin'Fine
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Chess - UK tour = Style over Substance#14
Posted: 9/2/10 at 1:36pm
I'm a lover of the American recording.
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Phantom of London
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Chess - UK tour = Style over Substance#15
Posted: 9/2/10 at 3:26pm
holbee I agree with you, I really liked the OLCR and have just recently downloaded the OBCR version, I was expecting this to be very poor form all what I have heard, on listening I was completely blown away.

Don't ask me to list the diffrents between the 2 as I would not know where to start, does anyone know? what songs are new to New York and what songs have been dropped from London?

However i have never seen the show, but hope to rectify this soon
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mrkringas
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Chess - UK tour = Style over Substance#16
Posted: 9/2/10 at 7:16pm
I love the Broadway cast. David Carrol is amazing as the Russian. Okay he has an annoying accent going on but love his powerful vocal and rich vibratto. Also Judy Kuhn makes a case for sopranos who belt.

Is it just me or is Pity the Child a step or two lower? I can never quite tell because if not then the American has such an effortless voice and a real shame he didn't go on to record more roles.

Yes the score is not what we are used to but its a worthy addition to any Chess fan.
Holbee
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Chess - UK tour = Style over Substance#17
Posted: 9/2/10 at 10:16pm
Mrkringas, Each of the three times I saw the Broadway "Chess", in "Pity the Child" when Phil Casnoff went up a step on the line: "Pity instead the careless mother..." I was given goosebumps the size of Cleveland. I'm not sure any moment in musical theatre has since done that to me to such an extreme...
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Gypsy_Woman
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Chess - UK tour = Style over Substance#18
Posted: 9/3/10 at 7:14am
I too am very surprised Shona put in a poor performance.
I dont know when the reviewer saw this, however I know that she was unwell around 15th August.
I was due to see her perform at a workshop she had been assisting with in Worthing, and the young lady who stepped in for her was only given 2 hours notice to cover.
I have never known Shona to have a day off sick prior to that, so maybe that is the reason for the poor performance.

Incidentally, cannot wait to see this in Northampton later this month. I havent seen Chess before, but I do know a small amount of the score, and enjoy it.
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Phantom of London
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Chess - UK tour = Style over Substance#19
Posted: 9/3/10 at 7:29am
I hope to see this in Southend or Worthing, but this won't be until next year, hope by then it gets announced for a full West End transfer.
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Mark_E
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Chess - UK tour = Style over Substance#20
Posted: 9/6/10 at 6:13pm
Shona was bad? You must have seen her on an off night.

I saw the show tonight, and she was in a league above every other cast member. Simply stunning vocals and performance all round, I can't praise her enough (was my first time seeing her in anything). I thought the production was great, the quality is very high, I can definitely see them wanting a West End transfer with this one.
RadioFan
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Chess - UK tour = Style over Substance#21
Posted: 9/7/10 at 4:10am
Your so right Mark.
Was there myself last night.
Wasn't Pity The Child something to behold.

This production has to have a huge future.
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Mark_E
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Chess - UK tour = Style over Substance#22
Posted: 9/7/10 at 4:23am
Yes!! And Anthem was great also. My favourite part was the very ending, when Florence sang the reprise of Anthem, gave me complete chills all over. There is no doubt Shona will get offered a lot of work after the performance she is giving here.
RadioFan
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Chess - UK tour = Style over Substance#23
Posted: 9/7/10 at 4:55am
I think see SNARLED it rather than sang it. It was superb.
So much better than Idina in the concert.
itsETKs
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Chess - UK tour = Style over Substance#24
Posted: 9/11/10 at 6:52pm
I have to say I am shocked to read Shona White gave a bad performance. I have seen her before and she is wonderful and I've seen her in Chess and she was amazing!!! I can only think she must have been ill when you saw her.

I agree that the 'acting' in this production is very basic at times, but it is still early days of a production which is quite complicated, with the actor musician concept etc, so I am hopeful that this will improve during the first few weeks of the tour.

I also must agree that it is the director's job to bring the story alive and help the actors do that. Some of the directorial decisions do hinder the story and in some cases trivialises it, which is a shame. There is ways to make a poor book work on stage with good direction and attention to detail in everything that the lead characters do. I think this attention is sometimes lacking and perhaps too much time has been spent on other visual elements.

Broadway was a great play and a crap musical - boring and dull and I LOVE this show, but that production was never going to draw good reviews or a wide audience. It deserved to close quickly, even though that was a great shame for the piece and the performers. I loved Judy K! (And the performers did get good reviews, it was the show the critics hated - quite rightly.)I don't believe it had much to do with a backlash against British shows - if it had been good it would have been better received.

Anyway, I think this new UK Tour is a very interesting production and really is worth seeing - even if you don't like some of the direction the singing voices of the leads (and the musicianship of the company) is sure to impress and I'm sure you will enjoy the experience of hearing this truly brilliant score brought to life again on stage.

Make that move - go see!

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