Did you miss Chess at the Arvada Center? Now you have a second chance to see the production, which has moved to the Lone Tree Arts Center's Main Stage Theater, where it opens tonight. In the meantime, here's a reprise of Juliet Wittman's review:
The semi-operatic Chess doesn't have a lot of dialogue, and the music ebbs and surges continually like the sea -- sometimes lyrical, witty or moving, and sometimes just empty wind. To follow the plot, you need to hear the lyrics -- and at the Arvada Center where this production originated, the sound was cranked so loud you couldn't. But now the show is moving to Lone Tree, and perhaps the sound will be better there.
Chess is the result of a collaboration between lyricist Tim Rice and composers Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus of ABBA. The theme is ambitious, an exploration of the Cold War with the game as both plot lever and metaphor: Boorish American wunderkind Freddie meets Russian virtuoso Anatoly at the World Chess Championship in Merano, Italy. The two men are closely watched by their minders, Molokov of the KGB and Walter, undercover for the CIA. The two security agents are dabblers in the murkiest of political arts, and the poison they represent infects individual lives as much as geopolitics. Freddie also brings with him to Merano his Hungarian-American lover, Florence, who promptly falls in love with Anatoly.
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While it's nice to see a musical that has a bit more than sex, escapism and the joys of self-affirmation on its mind, there's also some fairly intense silliness: The head of the International Chess Federation, for instance, who hovers above and around the action like the epicene Emcee of Cabaret; an infuriatingly self-pitying song in which Freddie howls about his miserable childhood as an excuse for being such a shit. Still, director Rod Lansberry has brought clarity and very fine voices to a work too messy to ever be a complete success, too good to be allowed simply to die.
Chess runs through April 29 in Lone Tree; for showtimes and ticket information, go to www.lonetreearts.org.