In short the story takes place at the World Chess Championships in Merano, Italy and Bangkok, Thailand one year apart. The Russian (Anatoly Sergievsky) and The American (Freddie Trumper) compete, not just at chess, but for the Hungarian, and originally Freddie's second, Florence Vassy. With behind the scenes scheming by Anatoly's compatriot Molokov, and the journalist Walter de Courcy, Anatoly's wife Svetlana arrives adding to the complications. The Arbiter acts as a sort of narrator.
|Character positioning in "Deal (No Deal)" |
|Musicians as chess pieces during Molokov and Walter's duet |
"Difficult and Dangerous Times" (www.mirvish.com)
And the voices...Wow! At times Shona White who played Florence sounded like Idina, but what stamina. The character is on stage almost the entire time, and the majority of the action is through song, this isn't a straight dialogue rich musical. I particularly liked her "Mountain Duet"(concert version again; Duet starts ~ 8:43) with Tam Mutu as Anatoly. He didn't have Josh Groban's distinctiveness but an incredible voice with perhaps even more nuance to it. There was some overacting at the end of "Endgame" where he breaks down and the sobs seemed a bit forced, but other than that he exuded Russian character and completely sold the part. His rendition of "Anthem" to close Act 1 was poignant.
|Svetlana and Anatoly |
|The Arbiter (toronto.broadwayworld.com)|
James Fox as Freddie, the egomaniac American, was easy to develop disdain for. However, when he broke out the guitar and accompanied himself in "Pity the Child" you suddenly were given a different glimpse of the character. Acted out, it's so much easier to feel understanding and sorry for him, than from just a recording.
|Freddie and Florence in "Commie Newspapers"|