Chess at London Coliseum
There is no better time than now to see Chess at the Coliseum. With news of an ABBA reunion on the horizon bringing fresh material, Benny and Björn fans will doubtless be tripping over each other on St Martin’s Lane to get in. This is the first West End production of the musical since 1986, and it still really grooves. The story follows the mythical chess rivalry of Anatoly Sergievsky and Freddie Trumper on and off the board, steeped in the mood music of an international rivalry between the US and the USSR. The Cold War may have come to an end, but Chess lives on.
Michael Ball (Sergievsky) proves once again why he is the West End’s darling: his vocal stamina, tone and control are supreme. Tim Howar absolutely steals the show as the firebrand Trumper. There are a grit and metal in his voice that scream “rock opera”, and the singer is totally – if rebelliously – at home in the ENO.
Sets are techy and futuristic, the stage lined with screens that hit home the media frenzy around the match. They confront the actors with tense close-ups, but at times perhaps serve to detract from excellent choreography by Stephen Mear. At first glance, it seems a challenge to keep audiences tuned in to several minutes at a time of pure chess, but the drama hangs heavy around the characters. This is as much down to the tunes themselves as to high-calibre directing by Laurence Connor.
The show and its soundtrack carry the stamp of their time. Big ballads, big hair, synths and pink neon all make their appearance. Composers Benny, Björn and Tim Rice certainly know what the people want. It may not be on the cutting edge of the musical world – and if that’s what you’re looking for, Hamilton is on just around the corner. But Chess is a guaranteed crowd-pleaser, and the production does it great justice.
Chess is at London Coliseum from 1st May until 2nd June 2018. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.
Watch a BBC report on Chess here: