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  • Claire Bradshaw

CHESS: The Musical-New Show Dates*

COVID-19 UPDATE: The Very Popular Theatre Company postpones Civic Theatre production of CHESS - THE MUSICAL TO 2021!


26-27th FEBRUARY 2021

If you have already purchased tickets you will receive an email from Ticketek regarding ticket date transfer, or if you are unable or unwilling to attend the rescheduled dates you will be able to receive a refund.We could not have afforded to postpone this show without your support of the arts, and we appreciate the continuation of your support into 2021.

Passion. Politics. Pop-rock show tunes. Pawns and knights and kings. Put all these things together at the Civic Theatre this March, and you’ve got Chess: The Musical – a story of love and political intrigue set to a big, bold soundtrack.

Chess: The Musical premiered in London’s West End in 1986. Preceded by a concept album released in 1984, the show’s music was composed by ABBA’s Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus, along with renowned lyricist Tim Rice. Chart-topping hits like ‘One Night In Bangkok’ and ‘I Know Him So Well’ pepper the musical, which pits chess masters and political superpowers head-to-head against the backdrop of the Cold War.

With two of the world’s greatest chess players – one American and one Russian – battling for a world title, the stakes are sent sky-high as their governments attempt to manipulate both players and championship for political ends. But it’s not just about the politics of it all: there’s plenty of passion and drama involved, too. The tournament is complicated further by a love triangle between the Russian champion, Anatoly, the American, Freddie, and a remarkable Hungarian refugee named Florence, who becomes caught up in the conflict.

In this month’s lavish new staging of Chess by The Very Popular Theatre Company, the lead roles will be taken on by some prolific Aussie performers. Actor/singer/songwriter Marty Worrall plays Freddie; international musical theatre favourite David Harris plays Anatoly, and popular singer and performer Silvie Paladino plays Florence.

Silvie is well-known for her remarkable voice and her appearances at Carols by Candlelight, as well as her starring roles in big-name productions like Les Misérables, Cats and Mamma Mia. And while it’s the first time Chess will be staged at the Civic Theatre, it’s not Silvie’s first time in this particular role. Back in 2012, she played Florence in The Production Company’s run of Chess in Melbourne – and she couldn’t be more thrilled to be returning to the role this year.

“I have to say it was one of my favourite shows that I’ve done, playing the role of Florence. I absolutely loved it,” Silvie says of her part in the 2012 production, which earned her a Green Room Award for Actress in a Leading Role. “Predominantly as a singer, the music is fantastic, and it sits so well in my voice – I just love singing that style of music. [Florence] is a wonderful character. She’s emotional, but she’s strong; she’s composed but exposes her hurt and her heart. And I love the love triangle – it creates drama, it creates suspense, it’s highly emotive. All those facets of Florence come together really well for me.”

This year’s production of Chess is a particularly special one, primarily due to its sheer scale. The core cast of seven principal performers will be joined by a supporting cast, a full 37-piece orchestra, and a choir of over 200 voices. This brings the total Chess ensemble to a whopping 280+ performers. “That’s a lot more than we had when I did it in 2012!” laughs Silvie. “It’s going to sound incredible.”

Musical Director Dan Wilson has pulled together a vibrant mix of consummate theatre professionals, celebrated local artists, and up-and-coming performers who will be getting their first taste of a professional theatre production. “That’s what’s exciting about it – we as professional artists get to impart our knowledge and our experience to the younger community that are coming through,” Silvie says. “They’ve got an energy that is very different to a professional company. They’re so excited; they’re doing it for the love, for the experience, for the passion of it. And so with that comes the energy and the excitement that is just so tangible. I think the audience will really feel that.”

There’s certainly no shortage of energy in the musical stylings of Chess. From synth-based pop numbers reminiscent of ABBA’s work through to grandiose, sweeping ballads, there’s a universal appeal to the music that will have theatregoers engrossed from start to finish.

“The boys from ABBA have written songs across their career that just get in your head and stay there. Because of that, the music is so catchy and really enjoyable to listen to, even if you’ve never heard it before,” Silvie says. “People will be surprised that there are songs in the show that they actually know, even if they’re not musical theatre fans – they will recognise some of the tunes, and if they don’t, they will feel like they do anyway.”

Under the direction of Erin James, who brought last year’s smash hit Mamma Mia to Newcastle audiences, the story of Chess is just as compelling as the music. Combining Cold War-era political tensions with complicated affairs of the heart, it’s sure to strike just the right balance with theatregoers of all kinds. “It’s really engaging, it’s exciting, it’s passionate,” says Silvie. “Across the board, it’s the sort of show that anyone could come and see and really enjoy. You don’t have to be a theatre buff to come and see it; it will appeal to a wide audience. You’ll feel like you know it.”

Chess: The Musical comes to the Civic Theatre on Friday, 27th March at 8pm and Saturday, 28th March at 2pm and 8pm. Tickets start at $69 for B Reserve and $79 for A Reserve and are available online through or via the Civic Theatre Box Office at 4929 1977.

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