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Epic Political Love Story Draws Major Stars to Newcastle

From the dream team who brought you 2019’s smash hit Mamma Mia!, The Very Popular Theatre Company (TVPTC) returns to Newcastle’s Civic Theatre this month with their epic production of CHESS: The Musical.

Written in 1984 by mega ABBA songwriters, Benny and Björn, and world-renowned lyricist, Sir Tim Rice, CHESS tells a story of love and political intrigue, set against the background of the Cold War.

Starring musical theatre powerhouses Silvie Paladino and David Harris, the production was originally intended to open on 27 March last year – exactly two weeks after that fateful Friday the 13th, when the first lockdown was announced. Rapid-fire negotiations with cast and crew took place before the declaration was made later that day, that it would be “check, not checkmate” for the show.

Once restrictions eased, producers negotiated with Harris, Paladino and the stellar support cast and new dates were set.

This will be Rutherford-born and raised, David Harris’s first major production in Newcastle, since leaving to make his mark on the global stage. David spent 2020 in lockdown in New York, returning to Australia in December and completing quarantine on Boxing Day. He is loving the freedom afforded by a relatively Covid-free Australia and is relishing being

united with his family. In a first, David’s two sisters are also featuring in the production and his parents are delighted at the prospect of seeing their three children on stage together for the first time.

Alongside David Harris and Silvie Paladino is a principal cast of five leading lights of local theatre – Marty Worrall, Marissa Saroca, Rob McDougall, Amy Vee and Christopher Allan. They, in turn, are supported by an ensemble of 16 actors/vocalists and ten dancers.

The monumental production will be directed by Erin James, who has starred in multiple Australian and international productions, as well as directing shows on the national stage. Erin was the mastermind behind TVPTC’s Mamma Mia! and is, once again, collaborating with musical director extraordinaire, Dan Wilson. Dan’s 32-piece orchestra will be on the stage along with a 75-strong choir!

Dan said it was a phenomenal opportunity for the local performers to watch Silvie and David in action and learn from these highly experienced professional performers.

“Erin and I are pinching ourselves that we get to work with uber-talented professionals of this calibre and present a show of this scale at the Civic Theatre,” said Dan.

“The Chess soundtrack is phenomenal and includes the international hit singles ‘I Know Him So Well’ and ‘One Night In Bangkok’, and other well-known songs such as ‘Anthem’, 'Someone Else's Story', ‘Heaven Help my Heart’ and ‘Pity The Child’. The cast is made up of absolute powerhouse voices who are bringing these huge numbers to life. We guarantee it will be a show to be remembered.”

CHESS The Musical hits the stage at Civic Theatre Newcastle for four performances from Friday 26 February through to Sunday 28 February. Bookings through Civic Theatre Ticket Office – phone 4929 1977 or visit www.civictheatrenewcastle.com.au

Top: David Harris and Silvie Paladino in the Civic Theatre, February 2019 (that's not a typo – this has been a long time in the planning). Photo credit Jo Roberts


As the Cold War continues to be waged, superpowers attempt to manipulate an international chess championship for political ends. Two of the world’s greatest chess masters, one American (Worrall), one Russian (Harris), are in danger of becoming pawns of their governments, as their battle for the world title gets underway. Simultaneously, their lives are thrown into further confusion by a Hungarian refugee (Paladino) – a remarkable woman who becomes the centre of their emotional triangle, mirroring the heightened passions of the political struggles which threaten to destroy lives and loves.

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