Theatre Review: Chess, Leeds Grand Theatre

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I FELT a pang of genuine sympathy and admiration as the Leeds Amateur Operative Society took on this lame duck musical.

Chess is arguably one of the most drawn-out and dull shows to have scraped its way into the pantheon of stage hits.

A recent national revival saw thousands of pounds lavished on an extravagant set and a cherry-picked cast of beautiful stars, but the production still didn’t make the grade. With that in mind, LAOS were never going to come close.

Still, there were some great performances from the likes of Fraser Wilkinson as Sergievsky, the Russian chess player who competes for the world title, and for the heart of Florence Vassy, who just so happens to be involved with his opponent, the American Frederick Trumper.

Gemma Durkin, as Vassy, put in a patchy show. Sometimes songs were obviously, uncomfortably out of her range while others, like the well-known duet I Know Him So Well, saw her shine.

Unfortunately lesser roles let other cast members shine more brightly. Richard Blackburn was masterful as The Arbiter and Jaqueline Bell was spine-tinglingly wonderful as Sergievsky’s wife.

But the inconsistent delivery and limited production only compounded the fact that they were on to a loser from the start.

To Saturday, Leeds Grand Theatre, New Briggate, Leeds, 7.15pm, Sat mat 2.15pm. £11 to £27.50 Tel: 0844 848 2700

Rod McPhee

Helen Woolf (Glinda) and Amy Ross (Elphaba) in Leeds. PIC: Tony Johnson

Leeds falls under the spell of musical