Theater Info for the Washington DC region

Stone Bridge High School Chess

By • Apr 22nd, 2008 • Category: Cappies

It is 1986, and with the Cold War leaving nations on the precarious edge of destruction, two powerhouses face off in an intense battle of wits, where a single move can lead to victory or brutal defeat. They are not world leaders, however, but chess champions from the world’s two superpowers, competing in a rivalry where more than the title is on the line.

Such was the exciting and dangerous world created in Stone Bridge High School’s production of Chess. Released first as a concept album in 1984, the musical story of a love triangle during a Soviet-US chess competition was composed by Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Anderson of ABBA fame, with lyrics by Tim Rice. It has since spawned numerous productions all across the globe. Stone Bridge’s cast and crew confronted the difficult musical with enthusiasm and talent and delivered an entertaining performance.

There were several standouts among the many leading roles, which demanded high-difficulty vocal and dramatic efforts from the actors. As Florence, the woman caught in the middle of the conflicting chess champions, Kristen Rencher displayed not only impressive vocal control and range but an emotionally powerful performance. Standing out in numbers such as “Someone Else’s Story” and “Heaven Help My Heart,” she proved herself well up to the task. As Freddie, the American champion, Ben Palmer excelled as the highly unlikeable character with his strong stage presence, interacting strongly with each of the other actors.

As Anatoly, the defecting Soviet player, Aaron Pendola captured the immense internal struggles endured by his character in the powerful Act-1 ending “Anthem.” In addition, as the Arbiter, Erik Delong provided a highly entertaining character whose vocal talents shone in each of his musical numbers. As Svetlana and Molokov, respectively, Sammie Teran and Jason Francis stood out with their impressive Russian accents, strong emotional expression, and exciting vocals.

The set, with its chessboard theme and consistent use of black and white, provided an interestingly appropriate backdrop for the action occurring onstage. The costumes, though occasionally inconsistent, gave the audience a good feel for style in the Cold War 80’s. The choreography, which demanded high levels of dancing prowess from the cast, matched well with the music, though sometimes proved a little too difficult in certain numbers.

Sound was adequate for most of the show, and only occasionally was interrupted with moments of microphone silence. In large choral numbers, however, the leading vocals overpowered those of the cast, and could have benefited from lowered levels. They were never overpowered by the well-prepared orchestra, however, which could have even been slightly louder in certain situations.

Overall, Stone Bridge’s production of Chess featured a well-rehearsed cast and crew that tackled an extremely difficult production with talent and determination and provided a highly entertaining musical experience.

by Kelly Snow of West Springfield

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