Epic political love story draws major stars to Newcastle

Written in 1984 by ABBA songwriters, Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus, and world-renowned lyricist, Sir Tim Rice, Chess tells a story of love and political intrigue, set against the background of the Cold War in the late 1970s/early 1980s. The team from The Very Popular Theatre Company, who brought 2019’s smash hit Mamma Mia! to Newcastle’s Civic Theatre, was set to open a truly epic version of this beloved production, starring musical theatre powerhouses Silvie Paladino and David Harris, on 27 March 2020 – two weeks after that fateful Friday the 13th, when the first lockdown steps were announced. Rapid fire negotiations with cast and crew took place before the declaration was made later that day, this 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 for 2021, including the addition of a fourth performance in the form of a Sunday matinee.
CHESS The Musical will be Harris’s first major production in Newcastle and he’s looking forward to returning from lockdown in New York to his hometown.

Alongside Harris and Paladino will be a principal cast of five leading lights of local performance – Marty Worrall, Marissa Saroca, Christopher Allan, Matt Edwards and Amy Vee – and a support cast of 16 vocalists and 11 dancers.

The monumental production will be directed by Erin James, who has starred in a range of Australian and international productions, as well as directing performances on the national stage. James is once again collaborating with musical director extraordinaire, Dan Wilson, who will be leading a 32-piece orchestra.
Wilson 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 these uber-talented professionals 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 remember,”

THE STORY OF CHESS: 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 under way. 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.

Chess, The Musical debuted in London in 1986, starring Elaine Paige, Tommy Korberg and Murray Head, but began life as a concept album two years earlier. With lyrics by Tim Rice (Evita, Jesus Christ Superstar, The Lion King) and music by Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus, the BB of the pop group ABBA, the show swiftly generated two hit singles in ‘One Night In Bangkok’ and ‘I Know Him So Well’. After three successful years on the London stage, the show started to move around the globe with mixed success. After some American rewrites the show didn’t translate to Broadway audiences the same way it did in London, but drew rave reviews for its stars, Judy Kuhn and David Carroll. Chess had its Australian opening in 1990 at the Theatre Royal, Sydney, after another set of rewrites, starring Jodie Gillies, Robbie Krupski, David McLeod, John Wood and Maria Mercedes. Two of the most successful productions of Chess have both happened in London. The first, a concert production at the Royal Albert Hall in 2008 starring Idina Menzel, Josh Groban, Adam Pascal, Kerry Ellis and Marti Pelow, the second, a production at the English National Opera in 2018 starring Michael Ball, Cassidy Jansson, Alexandra Burke and Tim Howar, with an ensemble of 44 and the full ENO orchestra of 50 this production has been one of the largest produced. Until now. This will be the second production of Chess in Newcastle following a performance at the Mission Theatre in 1995.

With a celebrated and highly acclaimed career in his native country Australia, David Harris now divides his time living and working in New York, London and Australia. In the USA, David received critical praise for his performance of Dan in TheaterWork’s Next To Normal, receiving BroadwayWorld and Connecticut Critics Circle Award nominations for Best Actor). He starred as Jean Valjean in Connecticut Repertory Theater’s production of Les Misérables – which co-starred and was directed by Tony Award winner Terrence Mann – starred as Billy Crocker in Goodspeed’s production of Anything Goes and as Father in Barrington Stage Company’s Ragtime. Harris recently originated the role of Max Bronfman in Stephen Schwartz’s new production of Rags at Goodspeed and performed at 92Y Lyrics and Lyricists celebrating the career of Lynn Ahrens in May 2018. In Australia, David was awarded a Green Room Award for Best Actor as well as Helpmann and Sydney Theatre Award nominations for his portrayal of Emmett Forrest in Legally Blonde (directed by Jerry Mitchell) and was awarded Theatre People’s Award for Best Actor for the role of The Baker in Victorian Opera’s production of Into The Woods. David gained critical acclaim as Chris in Cameron Mackintosh’s new production of Miss Saigon, which earned him Helpmann and Sydney Theatre Award nominations for what the Sydney Morning Herald described as “the year’s most truthful and moving stage portrayals” and received a further Helpmann Award nomination for his performance as Fiyero in the Australian, Singapore and Korean productions of Wicked. In 2018, David starred as Tick in the 10th-anniversary production of Priscilla Queen of the Desert, winning Broadway World’s Best Actor in a Musical award, along with earning his 4th Helpmann Award nomination, a Green Room and Glug Award nominations for Best Actor in a Musical. David began his professional career in the original Australian productions of The Boy From Oz and Mamma Mia and was awarded a MO Award for Best New Talent in 1997. On television, David has been seen in many TV commercial campaigns spanning the last 20 years and has appeared in guest roles on Australian television dramas including Neighbours, Blue Heelers and Rescue: Special Ops. Film credits include The Eye of the Storm, starring Geoffrey Rush and Judy Davis, and South Pacific, starring Glenn Close and Harry Connick Jnr. David has performed in concert and released two solo albums.

Silvie Paladino is one of Australia’s most versatile and talented entertainers. Her first theatrical role was Eponine in the Australasian tour of Les Misérables at the age of 18. She was then invited to perform the same role in the London production on the West End. In 1997, Silvie returned to London where she performed the role of Fantine in Les Miserables for a successful two-year season. Silvie’s other Australian credits include her one- woman show Silvie Paladino Sings Streisand (Green Room Award nomination), and the roles of: Jeannie in Hair, Grizabella in the Australian and Asian tour of Cats, Ellen in Cameron Mackintosh’s Australian premiere of Miss Saigon, Donna in the smash hit Mamma Mia!, Rita in the world premiere of Sideshow Alley, Clara in Passion and for The Production Company: Lady Thiang in The King And I, Florence in Chess (Green Room and Helpmann Award nominations) and Jerry’s Girls. She has also featured at many special events, such as the world-wide telecast of the Rugby League Grand Final, the Australian Football League Grand Final, Boxing Day Cricket Test and a concert in Beijing, as part of the 2008 Olympics. Silvie’s concert performances include lead artist with symphony orchestras throughout Australia. She has toured with international singer Patrizio Buanne and performed for celebrated theatre composers Stephen Sondheim and Stephen Schwartz. Silvie has performed with the Salvation Army at the O2 Arena London, as part of the Salvation Army’s 150th Anniversary celebrations, in the USA and, once again, toured England. She has most recently completed a solo concert tour of China. Apart from her theatrical credits, Silvie is well known to Australian audiences through her regular television appearances, including Carols by Candlelight for the Nine Network. Her recordings include Silvie Paladino Sings Streisand, Silvie Paladino – Christmas List, On My Own and, recorded with The Melbourne Staff Band of The Salvation Army, When You Believe, I Give You My Heart and O Holy Night. Most recently, Silvie performed with Michael Bolton on his Australian and New Zealand tour.

Born and raised in Lake Macquarie, Erin James graduated from the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA) in 2005, with a Bachelor of Arts in Music Theatre. She also holds a Diploma of Education (Music). A winner of the 2007 Bound for Broadway Talent Development Project Scholarship, Erin has performed in New York, New Zealand, Europe and Southeast Asia, as well as various tours in Australia. Erin’s theatre credits include Australian and international productions of Fiddler on the Roof and Cats, as well as touring Australian productions of Love Never Dies, South Pacific, The King and I, Me and My Girl, Blood Brothers and My Fair Lady. Her work in the feature film The Little Death earned her Best Supporting Actress nominations for both AACTA awards and Film Critics Circle of Australia awards. Erin made her directorial debut at Hayes Theatre Co. with the acclaimed production of She Loves Me. Erin was Dance Captain for Opera Australia’s South Pacific and Dance/Staging Supervisor for Julie Andrews’ My Fair Lady. Erin is a proud member of Actor’s Equity. Erin made her directorial debut for The Very Popular Theatre Company in 2019 with the smash hit musical, Mamma Mia!.

CHESS The Musical
Civic Theatre Newcastle
Friday 26 February 2021 at 8pm, Saturday 27 February at 2pm and 8pm, Sunday 28 February at 3pm
A Reserve: $79, B Reserve: $69
Bookings through Civic Theatre Ticket Office:
phone 4929 1977 or visit www.civictheatrenewcastle.com.au


Please note: This is a different production to the Melbourne/Perth touring concert of Chess

Gabi Bergman

Gabi Bergman is a Melbourne-based performer and educator, and is the current Deputy Editor-in-Chief of AussieTheatre.com. She holds a Double Arts degree in Theatre Studies and Film/Screen Studies and a Master of Teaching (Secondary Education). Gabi has always been an avid lover of theatre, specifically musicals, and spends way too much money than she’d like to admit on tickets. Her most prized possession is her crate of theatre programs.

Gabi Bergman

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