Chess The Musical

Chess The Musical

Apr 6, 2010, 9:33 AM |

On April 1st I was invited to come and see Theo Ubique's production of "Chess the Musical." I was also asked to do a Q&A session afterwards with the audience and cast, we will come to that in next blog.

The musical is being put on at the "No Exit Cafe" and has an optional dinner that is served by some of the cast. Ava, my six year old daughter, and myself enjoyed the food. My favorite item was the Borscht soup, which I thought a nice touch of "Red" to the dinner; I think that Ava liked the homemade Apple Strudel best.

I am a fan of this musical and have concept album, the release of the musical recording and the recent DVD of "Chess The Musical in Concert" from 2008. On the way we listened to the album singing along with "The Arbiter", "Embassy Lament" and of course "On Night in Bangkok." Needless to say, we were a little worried about how the cast would do on this version but they pulled it off.

The show starts by developing "Florence's" character in a scene showing little Florence with her father trying to escape from the Russians. They stop for a moment and set up a little chess board. Florence's father gives her advice about life and then they have to separate, each of them taking a piece off the board. It looked to me that Florence takes the Black Queen. (next blog will discuss this more)

The next scene takes place when Florence is grown up and she is the second for "Freddy Trumper" at the World Chess Championship against Anatoly, the Russian Champion. This match is loosely based on the Fischer vs Spassky that took place in 1972. The character Freddy certainly behaves much like Fischer with his tantrums and paranoia.

Well the match takes place and ....

I am not going to ruin the story for you here I suggest you see the show and enjoy the great singing by the cast and interesting choreography by Brenda Dider.

For me and Ava our favorite parts were: the Flute Solo by Chris Skrable during "One Night in Bangkok", The Duet between Florence and Svetlana when they sang "I know him so well", and of course the Arbiter song, sang wonderfully, by John Taflan.

A couple of technical "Chess" issues I noted were: In the first move of the first match Freddie moves his e pawn to e4, does not let go, moves it back and then moves his d pawn to d4. This violates the "Touch-Move rule" which has been in existence since the pre 1500's. Fischer himself made this error at least two times and abided by the rule, once against Wolfgang Unizicker in 1960 and again against Jan Hein Donner in 1968. The first one was his shortest loss in serious tournment play, the second ended in a draw but I digress.

Another technical issue I saw was the odd moves that were played on the board. One time Freddy makes an opening move of Nh3 which in serious play has never, in my dbase, ever been played. Also some of the other moves are questionable and yes I realize this is a musical not a real match but I think that a chess advisor might have been in order.

One more thing that was just pointed out to me, by Tony Friske of the Chicago Industrial Chess League, that the board in the picture below is setup incorrectly. The square on the bottom right should be white, as h1 is a white square.

Those few errors aside I highly recommend this to any fan of the game or of musicals in general. Get there early and have the dinner relax and enjoy the evening, I know we certainly did.

 This production is co-directed by Fred Anzevino, founder and artistic director of Theo Ubique, and Brenda Didier. Choreography by Ms. Didier as well. The music director is Ryan Brewester.

Maggie Portman: Florence
Courtney Crouse: Freddie
Jeremey Trager: Anatoly
Stephanie Herman: Svetlana
John B. Leen: Molokov
John Taflan: Arbiter
Anthony Apodoca: Walter
Jenny Guse, Jenny Lamb, Ben Mason and Travis Walker: Ensemble

Ryan Breweter (Keys)
Shawn Davis (Drums)
David Saenger (Guitar)
Julia Macholl (Violin)
Chris Skrable (Flute)

Music by Benny Andersson & Bjorn Ulvaeus (formerly of ABBA)
Lyrics by Tim Rice
Book by Richard Nelson
Produced by Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre in association with Michael James

Chess, A Cold War Rock Musical, will continue through April 25, 2010 at The No Exit Cafe located at 6970 N. Glenwood Avenue in Rogers Park.  The performance schedule is Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., Sunday at 7 p.m.  Tickets range from $25-$30 and a dinner package can be purchased for $25 more.  To reserve your spot call 800-596-4849 or online at The Redlins Morse stop is across the street.